I have written several postings related to Various topics including the military, Voting, the economy, religion and etc in America. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional issues in these topics.
By we I mean the Republican Party. Can we win everything back in 2022 and 2024? The key is the election process. Can we return our country back to an election process that is fair and honest, or are we forever to be held hostage by a system that is full of cheating, lying, deceitful and unethical practices. Well I can tell you one thing, the Democrats are banking on just these practices. If nothing is done to fix our elections the Democrats will continue to win every future election. Just look at the New York City Mayoral election if you don’t believe me. When state governments try to pass bills to correct these issues, the federal government steps in and files lawsuits against them, ie. the state of Georgia to prevent them from from being corrected.
You may ask where and how this electoral fraud has arisen. The answer is there has been fraud in election process ever since the very first election has taken place. It is how leaders in third world countries and banana republics stay in power. It is now how the Left is changing the course of American History.
Forms of electoral fraud, sometimes referred to as election manipulation, voter fraud or vote rigging, involves illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of a favored candidate, depressing the vote share of rival candidates, or both. It differs from but often goes hand-in-hand with voter suppression. What exactly constitutes electoral fraud varies from country to country.
Electoral legislation outlaws many kinds of election fraud, but other practices violate general laws, such as those banning assault, harassment or libel. Although technically the term “electoral fraud” covers only those acts which are illegal, the term is sometimes used to describe acts which are legal, but considered morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of an election or in violation of the principles of democracy. Show elections, featuring only one candidate, are sometimes classified as electoral fraud, although they may comply with the law and are presented more as referendums/plebiscites.
In national elections, successful electoral fraud on a sufficient scale can have the effect of a coup d’état, protest or corruption of democracy. In a narrow election, a small amount of fraud may suffice to change the result. Even if the outcome is not affected, the revelation of fraud can reduce voters’ confidence in democracy.
Electoral fraud can occur in advance of voting if the composition of the electorate is altered. The legality of this type of manipulation varies across jurisdictions. Deliberate manipulation of election outcomes is widely considered a violation of the principles of democracy.
Artificial migration or party membership
In many cases, it is possible for authorities to artificially control the composition of an electorate in order to produce a foregone result. One way of doing this is to move a large number of voters into the electorate prior to an election, for example by temporarily assigning them land or lodging them in flophouses. Many countries prevent this with rules stipulating that a voter must have lived in an electoral district for a minimum period (for example, six months) in order to be eligible to vote there. However, such laws can also be used for demographic manipulation as they tend to disenfranchise those with no fixed address, such as the homeless, travelers, Roma, students (studying full-time away from home), and some casual workers.
Another strategy is to permanently move people into an electoral district, usually through public housing. If people eligible for public housing are likely to vote for a particular party, then they can either be concentrated into one area, thus making their votes count for less, or moved into marginal seats, where they may tip the balance towards their preferred party. One example of this was the 1986–1990 Homes for votes scandal in the City of Westminster in England under Shirley Porter.
Immigration law may also be used to manipulate electoral demography. For instance, Malaysia gave citizenship to immigrants from the neighboring Philippines and Indonesia, together with suffrage, in order for a political party to “dominate” the state of Sabah; this controversial process was known as Project IC.
A method of manipulating primary contests and other elections of party leaders are related to this. People who support one party may temporarily join another party (or vote in a crossover way, when permitted) in order to elect a weak candidate for that party’s leadership. The goal ultimately is to defeat the weak candidate in the general election by the leader of the party that the voter truly supports. There were claims that this method was being utilized in the UK Labor Party leadership election in 2015, where Conservative-leaning Toby Young encouraged Conservatives to join Labor and vote for Jeremy Corbyn in order to “consign Labor to electoral oblivion”. Shortly after, #ToriesForCorbyn trended on Twitter.
The composition of an electorate may also be altered by disenfranchising some classes of people, rendering them unable to vote. In some cases, states have passed provisions that raised general barriers to voter registration, such as poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests, and record-keeping requirements, which in practice were applied against minority populations to discriminatory effect. From the turn of the century into the late 1960s, most African Americans in the southern states of the former Confederacy were disenfranchised by such measures. Corrupt election officials may misuse voting regulations such as a literacy test or requirement for proof of identity or address in such a way as to make it difficult or impossible for their targets to cast a vote. If such practices discriminate against a religious or ethnic group, they may so distort the political process that the political order becomes grossly unrepresentative, as in the post-Reconstruction or Jim Crow era until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Felons have been disenfranchised in many states as a strategy to prevent African Americans from voting.
Groups may also be disenfranchised by rules which make it impractical or impossible for them to cast a vote. For example, requiring people to vote within their electorate may disenfranchise serving military personnel, prison inmates, students, hospital patients or anyone else who cannot return to their homes. Polling can be set for inconvenient days, such as midweek or on holy days of religious groups: for example on the Sabbath or other holy days of a religious group whose teachings determine that voting is prohibited on such a day. Communities may also be effectively disenfranchised if polling places are situated in areas perceived by voters as unsafe, or are not provided within reasonable proximity (rural communities are especially vulnerable to this).
In some cases, voters may be invalidly disenfranchised, which is true electoral fraud. For example, a legitimate voter may be “accidentally” removed from the electoral roll, making it difficult or impossible for the person to vote.
In the Canadian federal election of 1917, during the Great War, the Union government passed the Military Voters Act and the Wartime Elections Act. The Military Voters Act permitted any active military personnel to vote by party only and allowed that party to decide in which electoral district to place that vote. It also enfranchised those women who were directly related or married to an active soldier. These groups were believed to be disproportionately in favor of the Union government, as that party was campaigning in favor of conscription. The Wartime Elections Act, conversely, disenfranchised particular ethnic groups assumed to be disproportionately in favor of the opposition Liberal Party.
Division of opposition support
Stanford University professor Beatriz Magaloni described a model governing the behaviour of autocratic regimes. She proposed that ruling parties can maintain political control under a democratic system without actively manipulating votes or coercing the electorate. Under the right conditions, the democratic system is maneuvered into an equilibrium in which divided opposition parties act as unwitting accomplices to single-party rule. This permits the ruling regime to abstain from illegal electoral fraud.
Preferential voting systems such as score voting, instant-runoff voting, and single transferable vote are designed to prevent systemic electoral manipulation and political duopoly.
Voter intimidation involves putting undue pressure on a voter or group of voters so that they will vote a particular way, or not at all. Absentee and other remote voting can be more open to some forms of intimidation as the voter does not have the protection and privacy of the polling location. Intimidation can take a range of forms including verbal, physical, or coercion. This was so common that in 1887, a Kansas Supreme Court in New Perspectives on Election Fraud in The Gilded Age said “[…] physical retaliation constituted only a slight disturbance and would not vitiate an election.”
- Violence or the threat of violence: In its simplest form, voters from a particular demographic or known to support a particular party or candidate are directly threatened by supporters of another party or candidate or by those hired by them. In other cases, supporters of a particular party make it known that if a particular village or neighborhood is found to have voted the ‘wrong’ way, reprisals will be made against that community. Another method is to make a general threat of violence, for example, a bomb threat which has the effect of closing a particular polling place, thus making it difficult for people in that area to vote. One notable example of outright violence was the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, where followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh deliberately contaminated salad bars in The Dalles, Oregon, in an attempt to weaken political opposition during county elections.
- Attacks on polling places: Polling places in an area known to support a particular party or candidate may be targeted for vandalism, destruction or threats, thus making it difficult or impossible for people in that area to vote.
- Legal threats: In this case, voters will be made to believe, accurately or otherwise, that they are not legally entitled to vote, or that they are legally obliged to vote a particular way. Voters who are not confident about their entitlement to vote may also be intimidated by real or implied authority figures who suggest that those who vote when they are not entitled to will be imprisoned, deported or otherwise punished.
- For example, in 2004, in Wisconsin and elsewhere voters allegedly received flyers that said, “If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election”, implying that those who had voted in earlier primary elections were ineligible to vote. Also, “If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything you can’t vote in the Presidential Election.” Finally, “If you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children will be taken away from you.”
- Another method, allegedly used in Cook County, Illinois in 2004, is to falsely tell particular people that they are not eligible to vote.
- In 1981 in New Jersey, the Republican National Committee created the Ballot Security Task Force to discourage voting among Latino and African-American citizens of New Jersey. The task force identified voters from an old registration list and challenged their credentials. It also paid off-duty police officers to patrol polling sites in Newark and Trenton, and posted signs saying that falsifying a ballot is a crime.
- Coercion: The demographic that controlled the voting ballot would try to persuade others to follow them. By singling out those who were against the majority, people would attempt to switch the voters’ decision. Their argument could be that since the majority sides with a certain candidate, they should admit defeat and join the winning side. If this did not work, this led to the threatening of violence seen countless times during elections. Coercion, electoral intimidation was seen in the Navy. In 1885 William C. Whitney started an investigation that involved the men in the Navy. As said by Whitney “the vote of the yard was practically coerced and controlled by the foremen. This instance shows how even in the Navy there were still instances of people going to great lengths for the desired elective to win.
People may distribute false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election. For example, in the Chilean presidential election of 1970, the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency used “black propaganda”—materials purporting to be from various political parties—to sow discord between members of a coalition between socialists and communists.
Another use of disinformation is to give voters incorrect information about the time or place of polling, thus causing them to miss their chance to vote. As part of the 2011 Canadian federal election voter suppression scandal, Elections Canada traced fraudulent phone calls, telling voters that their polling stations had been moved, to a telecommunications company that worked with the Conservative Party.
Vote buying occurs when a political party or candidate seeks to buy the vote of a voter in an upcoming election. Vote buying can take various forms such as a monetary exchange, as well as an exchange for necessary goods or services. This practice is often used to incentivize or persuade voters to turn out to elections and vote in a particular way. Although this practice is illegal in many countries such as the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil and Nigeria, its prevalence remains worldwide.
In some parts of the United States in the mid- and late 19th century, members of competing parties would vie, sometimes openly and other times with much greater secrecy, to buy and sell votes. Voters would be compensated with cash or the covering of one’s house/tax payment. To keep the practice of vote buying secret, parties would open fully staffed vote-buying shops. Parties would also hire runners, who would go out into the public and find floating voters and bargain with them to vote for their side.
In England, documentation and stories of vote buying and vote selling are also well known. The most famous episodes of vote buying came in 18th century England when two or more rich aristocrats spent whatever money it took to win. The “Spendthrift election” came in Northamptonshire in 1768, when three earls each spent over £100,000 on their favoured candidates.
Voters may be given money or other rewards for voting in a particular way, or not voting. In some jurisdictions, the offer or giving of other rewards is referred to as “electoral treating”. Electoral treating remains legal in some jurisdictions, such as in the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Vote buying can take the form of “turnout buying”, where a broker brings many people to the polls, with a background sure to vote one way, and the results are seen in the precinct results.
Whom to target
One of the main concerns with vote buying lies in the question of which population or group of voters are most likely to be susceptible to accepting compensation in exchange for their vote. Scholars such as Stokes argue that weakly opposed voters are the best ones to target for vote buying. This means that in a situation in which there are two parties running for office, for example, the voters who are not inclined to vote one way or the other are the best to target.
Other scholars argue that it is people of lower income status who are the best group to target, as they are the most likely to be receptive to monetary or other forms of compensation. This has proven to be the case in both Argentina and Nigeria. Since the wealthy are presumably not in need of money, goods or services, it would require a much larger compensation in order to sway their vote. However, as seen in the case of Argentina for example, citizens who reside within poor communities are in great need of income, or medical services, for example, to feed their families and keep them in good health. With that being said, a much smaller sum of cash or a medical prescription would be of much greater value and thus their political support can be much easier to purchase.
How to monitor
When postal ballots are mailed to voters, the buyer can fill them out or see how they are filled out. Monitoring is harder when ballots are cast secretly at a polling place. In some cases, there have been instances of voter tickets, or monitoring by individuals. Voters seeking to be compensated for their votes would use specially-provided voter ballots, or would fold their ballot in a particular way in order to indicate that they voted for the candidate they were paid to vote for.
If a buyer is able to obtain a blank ballot (by theft, counterfeit, or a legitimate absentee ballot) the buyer can then mark the ballot for their chosen candidates and pay a voter to take the pre-marked ballot to a polling station, exchange it for the blank ballot issued and return the blank ballot to the attacker. This is known as chain voting. It can be controlled in polling places by issuing each ballot with a unique number, which is checked and torn off as the ballot is placed in the ballot box.
Another strategy has been to invoke personalized social norms to make voters honor their contracts at the voting booth. Such social norms could include personal obligation such as moral debts, social obligations to the buyers, or a threat of withholding or ceasing to produce necessary resources. This is made more effective when the rewards are delivered personally by the candidate or someone close to them, in order to create a sense of gratitude on behalf of the voters towards the candidate.
There are several negative consequences that arise from the practice of vote buying. The presence of vote buying in democratic states poses a threat to democracy itself, as it interferes with the ability to rely on a popular vote as a measure of people’s support for potential governments’ policies.
Another noted consequence is that the autonomy of voters is undermined. Since getting paid or receiving rewards for their votes generates a form of income that they may need to support themselves or their families, they have no autonomy to cast the vote that they truly want. This is extremely problematic because if it is the most corrupt politicians who are engaging in vote buying, then it is their interests that remain the ones that dictate how the country is going to be run. This, in turn, perpetuates corruption in the system even further creating a cycle.
Thirdly, vote buying can create a dependency of voters on the income or goods that they are receiving for their votes, and can further perpetuate a type of poverty trap. If they are receiving medicine from their communities’ broker for example, if this tie is cut off then they may no longer have access to this necessity. It can be true that the broker in that community has no interest or incentive to actually increase the standards of living of the community members, as it is very possible that they are only interested in getting whatever share of the profit they are entitled to for working for the party. Additionally, if the goods or money are coming directly from a candidate, this candidate’s only wish is to maintain their power. That being said, they may provide services but their real interest may lie in keeping the voters dependent on the rewards they are providing in order to stay in power.
Voting process and results
A list of threats to voting systems, or electoral fraud methods considered as sabotage are kept by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Misleading or confusing ballot papers
Ballot papers may be used to discourage votes for a particular party or candidate, using the design or other features which confuse voters into voting for a different candidate. For example, in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Florida’s butterfly ballot paper was criticized as poorly designed, leading some voters to vote for the wrong candidate. While ballot was designed by a Democrat, it was the Democrat, Al Gore, who was most harmed by voter errors because of this design. Poor or misleading design is usually not illegal and therefore not technically election fraud, but it can nevertheless subvert the principles of democracy.
Sweden has a system with separate ballots used for each party, to reduce confusion among candidates. However, ballots from small parties such as Piratpartiet, Junilistan and Feministiskt initiativ have been omitted or placed on a separate table in the election to the EU parliament in 2009. Ballots from Sweden Democrats have been mixed with ballots from the larger Swedish Social Democratic Party, which used a very similar font for the party name written on the top of the ballot.
Another method of confusing people into voting for a different candidate than intended is to run candidates or create political parties with similar names or symbols as an existing candidate or party. The goal is to mislead voters into voting for the false candidate or party to influence the results. Such tactics may be particularly effective when a large proportion of voters have limited literacy in the language used on the ballot. Again, such tactics are usually not illegal but often work against the principles of democracy.
Another type of possible electoral confusion is multiple variations of voting by different electoral systems. This may cause ballots to be counted as invalid if the wrong system is used. For instance, if a voter puts a first-past-the-post cross in a numbered single transferable vote ballot paper, it is invalidated. For example, in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, up to four different voting systems and types of ballots may be used, based on the jurisdictional level of elections for candidates. Local elections are determined by single transferable votes; Scottish parliamentary elections by the additional member system; national elections for the UK Parliament by first-past-the-post; and elections to the European Parliament by a party list system.
Transparent ballot box used in Ukraine to prevent election officials from pre-stuffing the box with fake ballots.A specialised ballot box used to assist ballot stuffing, featured in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1856.
Ballot stuffing, or “ballot-box stuffing”, is the illegal practice of one person submitting multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is permitted.
- In the 1883 election for the district of Cook, in Queensland, Australia, arrests were made in connection with accusations of ballot stuffing, and the election committee subsequently changed the result of the election.
- A 2006 version of the Sequoia touchscreen voting machine had a yellow service “back” button on the back that could allow repeated voting under specific circumstances.
- During the 2018 Russian Presidential Election, there were multiple instances, some caught on camera, throughout Russia of voters and polling staff alike stuffing multiple votes for incumbent President Vladimir Putin in the ballot box.
In Major League Baseball’s All Star Game
Major League Baseball‘s All-Star Game has had problems with ballot stuffing on occasion.
- In 1957, Cincinnati Reds fans aided by a local newspaper arranged for seven of the eight elected starting fielders to be Reds players.
- In 1999, the online ballot was stuffed by computer programmer Chris Nandor in favor of Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Nandor created a program that enabled him to vote multiple times for Garciaparra and his teammates before his ballots—which were submitted through a dial-up connection—were traced back to him.
- In 2015, MLB annulled 65 million (out of a total of 620 million) online ballots after it was reported that eight out of the starting nine positions for the American League would have been Kansas City Royals players.
Misrecording of votes
Votes may be misrecorded at source, on a ballot paper or voting machine, or later in misrecording totals. The 2019 Malawian general election was nullified by the Constitutional Court in 2020 because many results were changed by use of correction fluid, as well as duplicate, unverified and unsigned results forms. California allows correction fluid and tape, so changes can be made after the ballot leaves the voter.
Where votes are recorded through electronic or mechanical means, the voting machinery may be altered so that a vote intended for one candidate is recorded for another, or electronic results are duplicated or lost, and there is rarely evidence whether the cause was fraud or error.
Many elections feature multiple opportunities for unscrupulous officials or ‘helpers’ to record an elector’s vote differently from their intentions. Voters who require assistance to cast their votes are particularly vulnerable to having their votes stolen in this way. For example, a blind or illiterate person may be told that they have voted for one party when in fact they have been led to vote for another.
Misuse of proxy votes
Proxy voting is particularly vulnerable to election fraud, due to the amount of trust placed in the person who casts the vote. In several countries, there have been allegations of retirement home residents being asked to fill out ‘absentee voter’ forms. When the forms are signed and gathered, they are secretly rewritten as applications for proxy votes, naming party activists or their friends and relatives as the proxies. These people, unknown to the voter, cast the vote for the party of their choice. In the United Kingdom, this is known as ‘granny farming.’
Destruction or invalidation of ballots
One of the simplest methods of electoral fraud is to destroy ballots for an opposing candidate or party. While mass destruction of ballots can be difficult to execute without drawing attention, in a very close election, it may be possible to destroy a very small number of ballot papers without detection, thereby changing the overall result. Blatant destruction of ballot papers can render an election invalid and force it to be re-run. If a party can improve its vote on the re-run election, it can benefit from such destruction as long as it is not linked to it.
Another method is to make it appear that the voter has spoiled his or her ballot, thus rendering it invalid. Typically this would be done by adding another mark to the paper, making it appear that the voter has voted for more candidates than entitled, for instance. It would be difficult to do this to a large number of paper ballots without detection in some locales, but altogether too simple in others, especially jurisdictions where legitimate ballot spoiling by voter would serve a clear and reasonable aim. Examples may include emulating protest votes in jurisdictions that have recently had and since abolished a “none of the above” or “against all” voting option, civil disobedience where voting is mandatory, and attempts at discrediting or invalidating an election. An unusually large share of invalidated ballots may be attributed to loyal supporters of candidates that lost in primaries or previous rounds, did not run or did not qualify to do so, or some manner of protest movement or organized boycott.
Tampering with electronic voting systems
Further information: Vote counting § Errors in optical scans, and Vote counting § Errors in direct-recording electronic voting
All voting systems face threats of some form of electoral fraud. The types of threats that affect voting machines vary. Research at Argonne National Laboratories revealed that a single individual with physical access to a machine, such as a Diebold Accuvote TS, can install inexpensive, readily-available electronic components to manipulate its functions.
Other approaches include:
- Tampering with the software of a voting machine to add malicious code that alters vote totals or favors a candidate in any way.
- Multiple groups have demonstrated this possibility.
- Private companies manufacture these machines. Many companies will not allow public access or review of the machines’ source code, claiming fear of exposing trade secrets.
- Tampering with the hardware of the voting machine to alter vote totals or favor any candidate.
- Some of these machines require a smart card to activate the machine and vote. However, a fraudulent smart card could attempt to gain access to voting multiple times or be pre-loaded with negative votes to favor one candidate over another, as has been demonstrated.
- Abusing the administrative access to the machine by election officials might also allow individuals to vote multiple times.
- Election results that are sent directly over the internet from the polling place center to the vote-counting authority can be vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack, where they are diverted to an intermediate website where the man in the middle flips the votes in favor of a certain candidate and then immediately forwards them on to the vote-counting authority. All votes sent over the internet violate the chain of custody and hence should be avoided by driving or flying memory cards in locked metal containers to the vote-counters. For purposes of getting quick preliminary total results on election night, encrypted votes can be sent over the internet, but final official results should be tabulated the next day only after the actual memory cards arrive in secure metal containers and are counted.
In particularly corrupt regimes, the voting process may be nothing more than a sham, to the point that officials simply announce whatever results they want, sometimes without even bothering to count the votes. While such practices tend to draw international condemnation, voters typically have little if any recourse, as there would seldom be any ways to remove the fraudulent winner from power, short of a revolution.
In Turkmenistan, incumbent President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov received 97.69% of votes in the 2017 election, with his sole opponent, who was seen as pro-government, in fact being appointed by Berdymukhamedov.
Postal ballot fraud
Fraud with absentee or postal ballots has been found occasionally in the United Kingdom, and the United States and has been alleged in Malaysia. In both the United Kingdom and the United States, experts estimate there is more fraud with postal ballots than in-person voting, and that even so it has affected only a few local elections.
Types of fraud have included pressure on voters from family or others, since the ballot is not cast in secret; collection of ballots by dishonest collectors who mark votes or fail to deliver ballots; and insiders changing or destroying ballots after they arrive.
A significant measure to prevent some types of fraud has been to require the voter’s signature on the outer envelope, which is compared to one or more signatures on file before taking the ballot out of the envelope and counting it. Not all places have standards for signature review, and there have been calls to update signatures more often to improve this review. While any level of strictness involves rejecting some valid votes and accepting some invalid votes, there have been concerns that signatures are improperly rejected from young and minority voters at higher rates than others, with no or limited ability of voters to appeal the rejection.
Some problems have inherently limited scope, such as family pressure, while others can affect several percent of the vote, such as dishonest collectors and signature verification.
Vote fraud can also take place in legislatures. Some of the forms used in national elections can also be used in parliaments, particularly intimidation and vote-buying. Because of the much smaller number of voters, however, election fraud in legislatures is qualitatively different in many ways. Fewer people are needed to ‘swing’ the election, and therefore specific people can be targeted in ways impractical on a larger scale. For example, Adolf Hitler achieved his dictatorial powers due to the Enabling Act of 1933. He attempted to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the Act by arresting members of the opposition, though this turned out to be unnecessary to attain the needed majority. Later, the Reichstag was packed with Nazi party members who voted for the Act’s renewal.
In many legislatures, voting is public, in contrast to the secret ballot used in most modern public elections. This may make their elections more vulnerable to some forms of fraud since a politician can be pressured by others who will know how he or she has voted. However, it may also protect against bribery and blackmail, since the public and media will be aware if a politician votes in an unexpected way. Since voters and parties are entitled to pressure politicians to vote a particular way, the line between legitimate and fraudulent pressure is not always clear.
As in public elections, proxy votes are particularly prone to fraud. In some systems, parties may vote on behalf of any member who is not present in parliament. This protects those members from missing out on voting if prevented from attending parliament, but it also allows their party to prevent them from voting against its wishes. In some legislatures, proxy voting is not allowed, but politicians may rig voting buttons or otherwise illegally cast “ghost votes” while absent.
Detection and prevention
The three main strategies for the prevention of electoral fraud in society are:
- Auditing the election process
- Deterrence through consistent and effective prosecution
- Cultivation of mores that discourage corruption.
Some of the main fraud prevention tactics can be summarised as secrecy and openness. The secret ballot prevents many kinds of intimidation and vote selling, while transparency at all other levels of the electoral process prevents and allows detection of most interference.
Election auditing refers to any review conducted after polls close for the purpose of determining whether the votes were counted accurately (a results audit) or whether proper procedures were followed (a process audit), or both.
Audits vary and can include checking that the number of voters signed in at the polls matches the number of ballots, seals on ballot boxes and storage rooms are intact, computer counts (if used) match hand counts, and counts are accurately totaled.
Election recounts are a specific type of audit, with elements of both results and process audits.
In the United States the goal of prosecutions is not to stop fraud or keep fraudulent winners out of office; it is to deter and punish years later. The Justice Department has published Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses in eight editions from 1976 to 2017, under Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Trump. It says, “Department does not have authority to directly intercede in the election process itself. … overt criminal investigative measures should not ordinarily be taken … until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.” Sentencing guidelines provide a range of 0–21 months in prison for a first offender; offense levels range from 8 to 14. Investigation, prosecution and appeals can take over 10 years.
In the Philippines, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested in 2011 following the filing of criminal charges against her for electoral sabotage, in connection with the 2007 Philippine general election. She was accused of conspiring with election officials to ensure the victory of her party’s senatorial slate in the province of Maguindanao, through the tampering of election returns.
The patterns of conventional behavior in a society, or mores, are an effective means for preventing electoral fraud and corruption in general. A good example is Sweden, where the culture has a strong tendency toward positive values, resulting in a low incidence of political corruption. Until recently Canada had a similar reputation. The In and Out scandal of 2008 and the Robocall scandal of 2011 has tarnished Canada’s electoral integrity.
An advantage of cultivating positive mores as a prevention strategy is that it is effective across all electoral systems and devices. A disadvantage is that it makes other prevention and detection efforts more difficult to implement because members of society generally have more trust and less of a sense for fraudulent methods.
The secret ballot, in which only the voter knows how they have voted, is believed by many to be a crucial part of ensuring free and fair elections through preventing voter intimidation or retribution. Others argue that the secret ballot enables election fraud (because it makes it harder to verify that votes have been counted correctly) and that it discourages voter participation. Although the secret ballot was sometimes practiced in ancient Greece and was a part of the Constitution of the Year III of 1795, it only became common in the nineteenth century. Secret balloting appears to have been first implemented in the former British colony—now an Australian state—of Tasmania on 7 February 1856. By the turn of the century, the practice had spread to most Western democracies.
In the United States, the popularity of the Australian ballot grew as reformers in the late 19th century sought to reduce the problems of election fraud. Groups such as the Greenbackers, Nationalist, and more fought for those who yearned to vote, but were exiled for their safety. George Walthew, Greenback, helped initiate one of the first secret ballots in America in Michigan in 1885. Even George Walthew had a predecessor in John Seitz, Greenback, who campaigned a bill to ” preserve the purity of elections” in 1879 after the discovery of Ohio’s electoral fraud in congressional elections.
The efforts of many helped accomplish this and led to the spread of other secret ballots all across the country. As mentioned on February 18, 1890, in the Galveston News “The Australian ballot has come to stay. It protects the independence of the voter and largely puts a stop to vote to buy.” Before this, it was common for candidates to intimidate or bribe voters, as they would always know who had voted which way.
Most methods of preventing electoral fraud involve making the election process completely transparent to all voters, from nomination of candidates through casting of the votes and tabulation. A key feature in ensuring the integrity of any part of the electoral process is a strict chain of custody.
To prevent fraud in central tabulation, there has to be a public list of the results from every single polling place. This is the only way for voters to prove that the results they witnessed in their election office are correctly incorporated into the totals.
End-to-end auditable voting systems provide voters with a receipt to allow them to verify their vote was cast correctly, and an audit mechanism to verify that the results were tabulated correctly and all votes were cast by valid voters. However, the ballot receipt does not permit voters to prove to others how they voted, since this would open the door towards forced voting and blackmail. End-to-end systems include Punchscan and Scantegrity, the latter being an add-on to optical scan systems instead of a replacement.
In many cases, election observers are used to help prevent fraud and assure voters that the election is fair. International observers (bilateral and multilateral) may be invited to observe the elections (examples include election observation by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union election observation missions, observation missions of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), as well as international observation organised by NGOs, such as CIS-EMO, European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), etc.). Some countries also invite foreign observers (i.e. bi-lateral observation, as opposed to multi-lateral observation by international observers).
In addition, national legislatures of countries often permit domestic observation. Domestic election observers can be either partisan (i.e. representing interests of one or a group of election contestants) or non-partisan (usually done by civil society groups). Legislations of different countries permit various forms and extents of international and domestic election observation.
Election observation is also prescribed by various international legal instruments. For example, paragraph 8 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document states that “The [OSCE] participating States consider that the presence of observers, both foreign and domestic, can enhance the electoral process for States in which elections are taking place. They, therefore, invite observers from any other CSCE participating States and any appropriate private institutions and organisations who may wish to do so to observe the course of their national election proceedings, to the extent permitted by law. They will also endeavour to facilitate similar access for election proceedings held below the national level. Such observers will undertake not to interfere in the electoral proceedings”.
Critics note that observers cannot spot certain types of election fraud like targeted voter suppression or manipulated software of voting machines.
Statistical indicators and election forensics
Various forms of statistics can be indicators of election fraud – e.g., exit polls which diverge from the final results. Well-conducted exit polls serve as a deterrent to electoral fraud. However, exit polls are still notoriously imprecise. For instance, in the Czech Republic, some voters are afraid or ashamed to admit that they voted for the Communist Party (exit polls in 2002 gave the Communist party 2–3 percentage points less than the actual result). Variations in willingness to participate in an exit poll may result in an unrepresentative sample compared to the overall voting population.
When elections are marred by ballot-box stuffing (e.g., the Armenian presidential elections of 1996 and 1998), the affected polling stations will show abnormally high voter turnouts with results favouring a single candidate. By graphing the number of votes against turnout percentage (i.e., aggregating polling stations results within a given turnout range), the divergence from bell-curve distribution gives an indication of the extent of the fraud. Stuffing votes in favour of a single candidate affects votes vs. turnout distributions for that candidate and other candidates differently; this difference could be used to quantitatively assess the number of votes stuffed. Also, these distributions sometimes exhibit spikes at round-number turnout percentage values. High numbers of invalid ballots, overvoting or undervoting are other potential indicators. Risk-limiting audits are methods to assess the validity of an election result statistically without the effort of a full election recount.
Though election forensics can determine if election results are anomalous, the statistics themselves are not indicative of fraud. Election forensics can be combined with other fraud detection and prevention strategies, such as in-person monitoring.
Voting machine integrity
One method for verifying voting machine accuracy is Parallel Testing, the process of using an independent set of results compared to the original machine results. Parallel testing can be done prior to or during an election. During an election, one form of parallel testing is the VVPAT. Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or verified paper record (VPR) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. This method is only effective if statistically significant numbers of voters verify that their intended vote matches both the electronic and paper votes.
On election day, a statistically significant number of voting machines can be randomly selected from polling locations and used for testing. This can be used to detect potential fraud or malfunction unless manipulated software would only start to cheat after a certain event like a voter pressing a special key combination (Or a machine might cheat only if someone does not perform the combination, which requires more insider access but fewer voters).
Another form of testing is Logic & Accuracy Testing (L&A), pre-election testing of voting machines using test votes to determine if they are functioning correctly.
Another method to ensure the integrity of electronic voting machines is independent software verification and certification. Once a software is certified, code signing can ensure the software certified is identical to that which is used on election day. Some argue certification would be more effective if voting machine software was publicly available or open source.
Certification and testing processes conducted publicly and with oversight from interested parties can promote transparency in the election process. The integrity of those conducting testing can be questioned.
Testing and certification can prevent voting machines from being a black box where voters cannot be sure that counting inside is done as intended.
One method that people have argued would help prevent these machines from being tampered with would be for the companies that produce the machines to share the source code, which displays and captures the ballots, with computer scientists. This would allow external sources to make sure that the machines are working correctly.
Notable United States legislation
Help America Vote Act
The Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, is a United States federal law enacted on October 29, 2002. It was drafted (at least in part) in reaction to the controversy surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential election. The goals of HAVA are: to replace punch card and lever-based voting systems; create the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of Federal elections; and establish minimum election administration standards.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
This was the most important federal legislation of the 20th century to protect voting rights, especially of ethnic and language minorities who had been disenfranchised for decades by states’ constitutions and practices. Initially, it was particularly important for enforcing the constitutional right of African Americans in the South to vote, where millions of people had been mostly disenfranchised since the turn of the 20th century and excluded from politics. The law has also protected other ethnicities, such as Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and language minorities in other states, who have been discriminated against at various times, especially in the process of voter registration and electoral practices.
Election cybersecurity or election security refers to the protection of elections and voting infrastructure from cyberattack or cyber threat – including the tampering with or infiltration of voting machines and equipment, election office networks and practices, and voter registration databases.
Cyber threats or attacks to elections or voting infrastructure could be carried out by insiders within a voting jurisdiction, or by a variety of other actors ranging from nefarious nation-states, to organized cyber criminals to lone-wolf hackers. Motives may range from a desire to influence the election outcome, to discrediting democratic processes, to creating public distrust or even political upheaval.
The U.S. is characterized by a highly decentralized election administration system. Elections are a constitutional responsibility of state and local election entities such as secretaries of state, election directors, county clerks or other local level officials encompassing more than 6,000+ local subdivisions nationwide.
However, election security has been characterized as a national security concern increasingly drawing the involvement of federal government entities such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In early 2016, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security designated elections as “critical infrastructure” making the subsector eligible to receive prioritized cybersecurity assistance and other federal protections from the Department of Homeland Security. The designation applies to storage facilities, polling places, and centralized vote tabulations locations used to support the election process, and information and communications technology to include voter registration databases, voting machines, and other systems to manage the election process and report and display results on behalf of state and local governments. In particular, hackers falsifying official instructions before an election could affect voter turnout or hackers falsifying online results after an election could sow discord.
Election security has become a major focus and area of debate in recent years, especially since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. In 2017, DHS confirmed that a U.S. foreign adversary, Russia, attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election via “a multi-faceted approach intended to undermine confidence in [the American] democratic process.” This included conducting cyber espionage against political targets, launching propaganda or “information operations” (IO) campaigns on social media, and accessing elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards. On September 22, 2017, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states that they were targeted by Kremlin-backed hackers during the 2016 election. Those states included Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington. Arizona, California, Iowa, Texas, and Wisconsin. Currently, hackers only reportedly succeeded in breaching the voter registration system of one state: Illinois.
In the aftermath of the 2016 hacking, a growing bench of national security and cyber experts have emerged noting that Russia is just one potential threat. Other actors including North Korea, Iran, organized criminals possess, and individual hackers have motives and technical capability to infiltrate or interfere with elections and democratic operations. Leaders and experts have warned that a future attack on elections or voting infrastructure by Russian-backed hackers or others with nefarious intent, such as seen in 2016, is likely in 2018 and beyond.
One recommendation to prevent disinformation from fake election-related web sites and email spoofing is for local governments to use .gov domain names for web sites and email addresses. These are controlled by the federal government, which authenticates the legitimate government controls the domain. Many local governments use .com or other top-level domain names; an attacker could easily and quickly set up an altered copy of the site on a similar-sounding .com address using a private registrar.
In 2018 assessment of US state election security by the Center for American Progress, no state received an “A” based on their measurements of seven election security factors. Forty states received a grade of C or below. A separate 2017 report from the Center for American Progress outlines nine solutions which states can implement to secure their elections; including requiring paper ballots or records of every vote, the replacement of outdated voting equipment, conducting post election audits, enacting cybersecurity standards for voting systems, pre-election testing of voting equipment, threat assessments, coordination of election security between state and federal agencies, and the allocating of federal funds for ensuring election security.
Role of white hat hackers
The “white hat” hacker community has also been involved in the public debate. From July 27–30, 2017, DEFCON – the world’s largest, longest running and best-known hacker conference – hosted a “Voting Machine Hacking Village” at its annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada to highlight election security vulnerabilities. The event featured 25 different pieces of voting equipment used in federal, state and local U.S. elections and made them available to white-hat hackers and IT researchers for the purpose of education, experimentation, and to demonstrate the cyber vulnerabilities of such equipment. During the 3-day event, thousands of hackers, media and elected officials witnessed the hacking of every piece of equipment, with the first machine to be compromised in under 90 minutes. One voting machine was hacked remotely and was configured to play Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Additional findings of the Voting Village were published in a report issued by DEFCON in October 2017.
The “Voting Village” was brought back for a second year at DEF CON, which was held in Las Vegas, August 9–12, 2018. The 2018 event dramatically expanded its inquiries to include more of the election environment, from voter registration records to election night reporting and many more of the humans and machines in the middle. DEF CON 2018 also featured a greater variety of voting machines, election officials, equipment, election system processes, and election night reporting. Voting Village participants consisted of hackers, IT and security professionals, journalists, lawyers, academics, and local, state and federal government leaders. A full report was issued on the 2018 Village Findings at a press conference in Washington, DC, held on September 27, 2018.
Legislation and policy
A variety of experts and interest groups have emerged to address U.S. voting infrastructure vulnerabilities and to support state and local elections officials in their security efforts. From these efforts have come a general set of policy ideas for election security, including:
- Implement universal use of paper ballots, marked by hand and read by optical scanner, ensuring a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
- Phase out touch-screen voting machines – especially the most vulnerable direct-recording electronic (DRE) devices.
- Update pollbooks and other electronic equipment used to check-in voters.
- Verify voting results by requiring election officials to conduct risk-limiting audits, a statistical post-election audit before certification of final results.
- Secure voting infrastructure, especially voter registration databases, using cyber hygiene tools such as the CIS “20 Critical Security Controls” or NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework.
- Call upon outside experts to conduct cyber assessments – DHS, white-hat hackers, cybersecurity vendors and security researchers – where needed.
- Provide resources and training to state and local election leaders for cyber maintenance and on-going monitoring.
- Promote information-sharing on cyber threats and incidents in and across the entire voting industry.
- Appropriate federal funding to states to implement infrastructure upgrades, audits, and cyber hygiene measures.
- Establish clear channels for coordination between local, state, and federal agencies, including real-time sharing of threat and intelligence information.
- Maintain DHS’s designation of elections as a Critical Infrastructure Subsector.
- Require DHS to institute a pre-election threat assessment plan to bolster its technical support capacity to state and locals requesting assistance.
Federal legislation has also been introduced to address these concerns. The first bipartisan Congressional legislation to protect the administration of Federal elections against cybersecurity threats – the Secure Elections Act – was introduced on December 21, 2017 by Senator James Lankford.
The 2018 Federal Budget (as signed by President Donald Trump) included $380m USD in state funding to improve election security. Each state received a standard payment of $3m USD, with the remaining $230m USD allocated to each state proportionally based on voting age population. Security measures funded included improving cybersecurity (36.3% of funds), the purchase of new voting equipment (27.8%), improvement of voter registration systems (13.7%), post election audits (5.6%), and improving communications efforts (2%).
Now that we have covered different types of voter fraud that are prevalent and some of the manners to correct the system. We will cover more types of voter reform later in this article. But I believe a little background information on what makes our voting system unique and the pride of the world. Known for its fairness and equality, or it used to be. The 2020 election has altered that opinion somewhat.
The struggle for equal voting rights dates to the earliest days of U.S. history. Now, after a period of bipartisan efforts to expand enfranchisement, Americans once again face new obstacles to votingCarnegie Corporation of New York, November 18, 2019
Challenges to voting rights in this country, like the ones we’ve seen recently, are hardly a 21st-century invention. Entrenched groups have long tried to keep the vote out of the hands of the less powerful. Indeed, America began its great democratic experiment in the late 1700s by granting the right to vote to a narrow subset of society — white male landowners. Even as barriers to voting began receding in the ensuing decades, many Southern states erected new ones, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, aimed at keeping the vote out of the hands of African American men.
Over time, voting rights became a bipartisan priority as people worked at all levels to enact constitutional amendments and laws expanding access to the vote based on race and ethnicity, gender, disability, age and other factors. The landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed by Congress took major steps to curtail voter suppression. Thus began a new era of push-and-pull on voting rights, with the voting age reduced to 18 from 21 and the enshrinement of voting protections for language minorities and people with disabilities.
Greater voter enfranchisement was met with fresh resistance and in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, paving the way for states and jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression to enact restrictive voter identification laws. A whopping 23 states created new obstacles to voting in the decade leading up to the 2018 elections, according to the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection.
These activities have a demonstrable and disproportionate effect on populations that are already underrepresented at the polls. Adding to the problems, government at all levels has largely failed to make the necessary investments in elections (from technology to poll-worker training) to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the system.
1700s: Voting generally limited to white property holders
This 1940 oil painting, “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” by Howard Chandler Christy, depicts the Constitutional Convention, held in 1787 in Philadelphia, where the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Despite their belief in the virtues of democracy, the founders of the United States accepted and endorsed severe limits on voting. The U.S. Constitution originally left it to states to determine who is qualified to vote in elections. For decades, state legislatures generally restricted voting to white males who owned property. Some states also employed religious tests to ensure that only Christian men could vote.
1800s: Official barriers to voting start to recede
This 19th-century illustrated engraving shows black men recently emancipated from slavery participating in an election in New Orleans in 1867. (Photo: Wikimedia)
During the early part of the 19th century, state legislatures begin to limit the property requirement for voting. Later, during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ensured that people could not be denied the right to vote because of their race. The amendment was ratified by the states in 1870. However, in the decades that followed, many states, particularly in the South, used a range of barriers, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, to deliberately reduce voting among African American men.
1920: Women win the vote
Activists stand at a women’s suffrage information booth in New York City encouraging people to vote “yes” for women’s voting rights in 1914. (Credit: Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)
Early in the 20th century, women still were only able to vote in a handful of states. After decades of organizing and activism, women nationwide won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
1960: Southern states ramp up barriers to voting
Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo: William Lovelace /Express/Getty Images)
The struggle for equal voting rights came to a head in the 1960s as many states, particularly in the South, dug in on policies—such as literacy tests, poll taxes, English-language requirements, and more—aimed at suppressing the vote among people of color, immigrants and low-income populations. In March 1965, activists organized protest marches from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery to spotlight the issue of black voting rights. The first march was brutally attacked by police and others on a day that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” After a second march was cut short, a throng of thousands finally made the journey, arriving in Montgomery on March 24 and drawing nationwide attention to the issue.
1964: The 24th amendment targets poll taxes
A man sells poll tax pledges in 1947. (Photo: Jack Birns/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Poll taxes were a particularly egregious form of voter suppression for a century following the Civil War, forcing people to pay money in order to vote. Payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voter registration in many states. The taxes were expressly designed to keep African Americans and low-income white people from voting. Some states even enacted grandfather clauses to allow many higher-income white people to avoid paying the tax. The 24th amendment was approved by Congress in 1962 and ratified by the states two years later. In a 1966 case, the Supreme Court ruled that poll taxes are unconstitutional in any U.S. election.
1965: The Voting Rights Act passes Congress
A group of voters line up outside the polling station in Peachtree, Alabama, a year after the Voting Rights Act was passed. (Photo: MPI/Getty Images)
Inspired by voting rights marches in Alabama in spring 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The vote was decisive and bipartisan: 79-18 in the Senate and 328-74 in the House. President Lyndon Johnson signed the measure on August 6 with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other icons of the civil rights movement at his side. In addition to barring many of the policies and practices that states had been using to limit voting among African Americans and other targeted groups, the Voting Rights Act included provisions that required states and local jurisdictions with a historical pattern of suppressing voting rights based on race to submit changes in their election laws to the U.S. Justice Department for approval (or “preclearance”). In the ensuing decades, the preclearance provisions proved to be a remarkably effective means of discouraging state and local officials from erecting new barriers to voting, stopping the most egregious policies from going forward, and providing communities and civil rights advocates with advance notice of proposed changes that might suppress the vote.
1971: Young people win the vote
President Richard Nixon signs the 26th Amendment bringing down the voting age to 18 from 21. (Photo: UPI/Getty Images)
For much of the nation’s history, states generally restricted voting to people age 21 and older. But during the 1960s, the movement to lower the voting age gained steam with the rise of student activism and the war in Vietnam, which was fought largely by young, 18-and-over draftees. The 26th amendment prohibited states and the federal government from using age as a reason to deny the vote to anyone 18 years of age and over.
1975: Voting Rights Act expanded to protect language minorities
A woman walks past a sample ballot in Spanish at a polling station in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm /AFP via Getty Images)
Congress added new provisions to the Voting Rights Act to protect members of language minority groups. The amendments required jurisdictions with significant numbers of voters who have limited or no proficiency in English to provide voting materials in other languages and to provide multilingual assistance at the polls.
1982: Congress requires new voting protections for people with disabilities
A disabled man casts his ballot. (Photo: David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Congress passed a law extending the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. As part of the extension, Congress required states to take steps to make voting more accessible for the elderly and people with disabilities.
1993: “Motor Voter” becomes law
A man registers to vote at the Jefferson County Department of Motor Vehicles in Arvada, Colorado. (Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Responding to historically low rates of voter registration, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act. Also known as “motor voter,” the law required states to allow citizens to register to vote when they applied for their drivers’ licenses. The law also required states to offer mail-in registration and to allow people to register to vote at offices offering public assistance. In the first year of its implementation, more than 30 million people completed their voter registration applications or updated their registration through means made available because of the law.
2000: Election problems spotlight need for reform
A judge on the the Broward County Canvassing Board uses a magnifying glass to examine a dimpled chad on a punch card ballot during a vote recount in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after the contested 2000 presidential election. (Photo: Robert King/Newsmakers/Getty Images)
The extremely close Bush-Gore Presidential race led to a recount in the state of Florida that highlighted many of the problems plaguing U.S. elections, from faulty equipment and bad ballot design to inconsistent rules and procedures across local jurisdictions and states. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately intervened to stop the Florida recount and effectively ensuring the election of George W. Bush.
2002: Congress passes the Help America Vote Act
A woman inserts her ballot into the machine after voting. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
With memories of the problems of the 2000 election still fresh in everyone’s mind, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 with the goal of streamlining election procedures across the nation. The law placed new mandates on states and localities to replace outdated voting equipment, create statewide voter registration lists, and provide provisional ballots to ensure that eligible voters are not turned away if their names are not on the roll of registered voters. The law also was designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to cast private, independent ballots.
2010: Philanthropy embraces need for reform
Voters wait in line to cast a vote in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Along with a core group of other funders, the Carnegie Corporation of New York began investing in voting rights and elections work in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it wasn’t until the early years of the 21st century that funders started to work more intentionally together in their support for voting rights. A key vehicle for collective funder action on these issues is the State Infrastructure Fund (SIF), a collaborative fund administered by NEO Philanthropy. The fund was created in 2010 and has raised more than $56 million from an expanding list of funders to invest in advancing voting rights and expanding voting among historically underrepresented communities.
June 2013: The Supreme Court strikes a blow to the Voting Right Act
Holding images of murdered Mississippi civil rights worker Medgar Evers, demonstrators gather as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In its June ruling in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Because of the Court’s decision, states and localities with a history of suppressing voting rights no longer were required to submit changes in their election laws to the U.S. Justice Department for review (or “preclearance”). The 5-4 decision ruled unconstitutional a section of the landmark 1965 law that was key to protecting voters in states and localities with a history of race-based voter suppression. In her dissent in the case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously stated, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
August 2013: States ramp up barriers to voting
North Carolina State University students wait in line to vote in Raleigh, North Carolina, shortly after the state passed its stringent voter ID law disqualifying student ID cards as an accepted form of voter identification. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
On August 11, North Carolina’s governor signed a voter identification law seen by many as an attempt to suppress the votes of people of color. The North Carolina law was just one of many similar laws passed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2013 Shelby ruling. Texas officials, in fact, acted on the same day of the Shelby decision to institute a strict voter identification law that previously had been blocked under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of its impact in suppressing the vote of low-income people and racial minorities. After a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina law was struck down by a federal judge who said it targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.” Officials in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Virginia shortly joined the ranks of those intent on exercising their newly won power to turn back the clock to an earlier time when election laws and practices in many places were marked by blatant discrimination and racism.
2014: The voting rights movement coalesces to fight suppression
Cuban Americans vote at a polling center in Miami’s Little Havana, Florida. (Photo: Rhona Wise/AFP via Getty Images)
In response to post-Shelby assaults on voting rights, voting rights organizations across the country stepped up their work to protect and advance the right to vote and move us closer to the vision of a nation of, by, and for the people. This work includes litigation to challenge unconstitutional barriers to voting, on-the-ground advocacy to advance pro-voter policies at the local and state levels, and nonpartisan efforts to register, educate and mobilize historically underrepresented populations so they can participate more actively in elections and civic life. The State Infrastructure Fund began convening a cohort of nonprofit public interest litigation groups with the aim of streamlining and coordinating the field’s response to a fresh wave of policies to suppress the vote. Coordinated by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the collaborative of 12 organizations has played an essential role in pushing back against strict voter identification laws, racial gerrymandering, and other tactics aimed at reducing the voting rights of underrepresented populations.
2016: Presidential election and claims of fraud
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attend the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
After President Trump was elected despite losing the popular vote, he and his supporters made claims that large numbers of people voted illegally. A Washington Post analysis was able to find only four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election out of 135 million ballots cast. The narrative about fraud ultimately resulted in President Trump convening the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which disbanded in January 2018 without presenting any evidence or findings. Continued false claims of rampant voter fraud have added fuel to the fire and prompted even bolder efforts to suppress the vote. Adding to the problems, government at all levels has largely failed to make the necessary investments in elections (from technology to poll worker training) to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the electoral system.
October 2018: State, local officials keep erecting new barriers to voting continue
A long line forms outside the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A 2018 USAToday analysis found that election officials recently have closed thousands of polling places, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. The polling place closures are just one example of how states and localities have continued to try to suppress the votes of targeted populations. In 2018, for example, the Georgia Senate passed bills cutting voting hours in Atlanta (where African Americans are 54 percent of the population) and restricting early voting on weekends. The latter measure was seen by many as a not-so-subtle attempt to target nonpartisan “Souls to the Polls” events organized by black churches to get their parishioners to vote on Sunday after church. Both Georgia measures were subsequently defeated in the state Assembly.
November 2018: Election draws record number of voters but problems remain
A woman and her children vote at a polling station during the 2018 midterm elections in Lorton, Virginia. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
According to early estimates, 116 million voters—nearly half the eligible voting population (49.7 percent)—cast ballots in the 2018 elections. Not only did voter turnout set a 100-year record for midterm races, but the election saw record numbers of women and candidates of color running at all levels. In addition, voters approved a number of important state ballot measures aimed at expanding the electorate and making it easier to vote, including a law in Florida that lifts the permanent ban on voting for people with a felony criminal record. The numbers for 2018 were especially impressive given that many states continue to take aggressive steps to make it harder for people to vote. According to the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection, 23 states created new obstacles to voting in the decade preceding the 2018 election.
2019: Voting rights groups prepare for the 2020 Census and redistricting
Protestors stage a rally against gerrymandering during the U.S. Supreme Court hearings in March 2019 on landmark redistricting cases out of North Carolina and Maryland. (Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In the same way that partisan interests and those in power have used voting rights laws and policies to suppress the vote, they also have attempted to use the U.S. Census and the subsequent congressional redistricting process to advance their political goals. The Trump administration, for example, fought unsuccessfully for two years to add a question to the 2020 census asking if someone is a citizen of the United States. Voting rights and civil rights groups said this was a transparent attempt to instill fear in immigrant communities, with the result of undercounting the immigrant population and reducing its political power and voice. Other concerns about the 2020 census include chronic underfunding for the work of accurately counting everyone in the nation. To the extent that the census cuts corners, there is a well-founded belief that it will result in an undercount of already underrepresented populations, including low-income populations and people of color.
Electoral reform in the United States refers to efforts to change American elections and the electoral system used in the United States.
Most elections in the U.S. select one person; elections with multiple candidates selected by proportional representation are relatively rare. Typical examples include the House of Representatives, whose members are elected by a plurality of votes in single-member districts. The number of representatives from each state is set in proportion to each state’s population in the most recent decennial census. District boundaries are usually redrawn after each such census. This process often produces “gerrymandered” district boundaries designed to increase and secure the majority of the party in power, often by offering secure seats to members of the opposition party. This is one of a number of institutional features that increase the advantage of incumbents seeking reelection. The Senate and the president are also elected by plurality. However, these elections are not affected by gerrymandering (with the possible exception of presidential races in Maine and Nebraska, whose electoral votes are partially allocated by Congressional district).
Proposals for electoral reform have included overturning the Supreme Court‘s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, public and citizen funding of elections, limits and transparency in funding, ranked-choice voting (RCV), abolishing the Electoral College or nullifying its impact through the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and improving ballot access for third parties, among others. The U.S. Constitution gives states wide latitude to determine how elections are conducted, although some details, such as the ban on poll taxes, are mandated at the federal level.
Cost of the current system
The cost of getting elected, especially to any national office in the US, has been growing. The Federal Elections Commission estimated that “candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and politically active nonprofits” spent a total of $7 billion in 2012. The magazine Mother Jones said that this money was used “to influence races up and down the ballot”, noting further that the cost of elections has continued to escalate. The 2010 congressional elections cost roughly $4 billion.
Spending averages just under $3 billion per year for the 4-year presidential election cycle.
This is small relative to what the major campaign contributors, crony capitalists (whether allegedly “liberal” or “conservative”), receive for their money. The Cato Institute found corporate welfare totaling $100 billion in the 2012 U.S. federal budget. This includes only direct subsidies specifically identified in the Cato Institute research. It does not include indirect subsidies like tax breaks, trade barriers, distorting copyright law beyond the “limited time” and other restrictions mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and other distortions of U.S. foreign and defense policies to benefit major corporations and people with substantial financial interests outside the U.S.
Other studies have estimated between $6 and $220 return for each $1 invested by major corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals in lobbying and political campaigns.
This rate of return helps escalate the cost of elections. To obtain the money needed for their next election campaign, incumbent politicians spend a substantial portion of their time soliciting money from large donors, who often donate to competing candidates, thereby buying access with the one that wins.
This $3 billion per year is about $10 for each of the 316 million people in the US, $23 for each of the 130 million people who voted in 2012.
Electoral reform proposals
Josh Silver’s “Cure for political corruption” divides electoral reforms between campaign finance, lobbying and election administration.
Most of the proposed reforms can be achieved at least in part by legislation, though some require amending the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and related decisions would require a constitutional amendment to permanently change, and several have been proposed. Similarly, some proposed systems for campaign finance or restrictions on campaign contributions have been declared unconstitutional; implementation of those changes could require a constitutional amendment.
However, many other reforms can seemingly be achieved without a constitutional amendment. These include various forms of public financing of political campaigns, disclosure requirements and instant-runoff voting. The American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) is one collection of reforms that appear to be consistent with existing US Supreme Court rulings, developed by Republican Trevor Potter, who had previously served as head of the US Federal Elections Commission under Democratic President Bill Clinton. Local versions of the AACA are being promoted by RepresentUs.
Campaign finance reform
Lawrence Lessig said, “On January 20, 2010, the day before Citizens United was decided, our democracy was already broken. Citizens United may have shot the body, but the body was already cold. And any response to Citizens United must also respond to that more fundamental corruption. We must find a way to restore a government ‘dependent upon the People alone,’ so that we give ‘the People’ a reason again to have confidence in their government.”
Lessig favors systems that share as broadly as possible the decisions about which candidates or initiatives get the funding needed to get their message to the voters. Following Bruce Ackerman, Lessig recommends giving each eligible voter a “democracy voucher” worth, e.g., $100 each election year that can only be spent on political candidates or issues. The amount would be fixed at roughly double the amount of private money spent in the previous election cycle. Unlike the current Presidential election campaign fund checkoff, the decisions regarding who gets that money would be made by individual citizens.
Lessig also supports systems to provide tax rebates for such contributions or to match small dollar contributions such as the system in New York City that provides a 5-to-1 match for contributions up to $250. To be eligible for money from vouchers, rebates or matching funds, candidates must accept certain limits on the amounts of money raised from individual contributors.
Vouchers, tax rebates, and small dollar matching are called “citizen funding” as opposed to more traditional “public funding”, which tasks a public agency with deciding how much money each candidate receives from the government. While the Supreme Court of the United States has already struck down many forms of public funding of political campaigns, there are forms of public and especially citizen financing that seem consistent with the constitution as so far interpreted by the courts and could therefore be secured by standard legislative processes not requiring amending the constitution.
One bill that proposes such a system for U.S. congressional elections is “The Grassroots Democracy Act”. It was introduced September 14, 2012, by U.S. Representative John Sarbanes as H.R. 6426 and reintroduced on January 15, 2013 as H. R. 268.
Overturning Citizens United
The Citizens United v. FEC decision, January 21, 2010, of the U.S. Supreme Court has received substantial notoriety, pushing many people to work for a constitutional amendment to overturn it. Key provisions of that decision assert in essence that money is speech and subject to first amendment protections. Move to Amend began organizing to oppose that decision in September 2009. By June 2013, they had at least 164 local affiliates in 36 states plus the District of Columbia. They had obtained roughly 300,000 individual signatures for their Motion to Amend and had secured the passage of 367 local resolutions and ordinances. United for the People is consortium of some 144 organizations supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The web site of United for the People lists 17 constitutional amendments introduced in the 112th United States Congress and 12 introduced by March 13, 2013, in the 113th proposing to overturn Citizens United in different ways.
The libertarian think-tank the Cato Institute is concerned that most proposed responses to Citizens United will give “Congress unchecked new power over spending on political speech, power that will be certainly abused.”
Clean elections, clean money, and disclosure
Terms like “clean elections” and “clean money” are sometimes used inconsistently. Clean elections typically refers to systems where candidates receive a fixed sum of money from the government to run their campaigns after qualifying by collecting small dollar contributions (e.g., $5) from a large enough group of citizens. Systems of this nature have been tried in Maine, Arizona, North Carolina, New Mexico, Vermont, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Connecticut and elsewhere; some of these have been disqualified at least in part by the courts.
“Clean money” is sometimes used as a synonym for clean elections; at other times, it refers to a DISCLOSE Act, requiring disclosure of the sources of campaign funds. The DISCLOSE Act bill in the U.S. Congress seeks “to prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections, to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections, and for other purposes.”
The California Clean Money Campaign is pushing the California DISCLOSE act, which differs substantially from the federal DISCLOSE Act. The California bill would strengthen disclosure requirements for political advertisements. Among other provisions, it requires the top three contributors for any political ad to be identified by name on the ad.
Ackerman and Ayres propose a “secret donation booth”, the exact opposite of full disclosure. This system would require that all campaign contributions be anonymously given through a government agency. Their system would give donors a few days to change their minds and withdraw or change the recipient of a donation; it would also add a random time delay to ensure that the recipients of donations could never know for sure the source of the funds they receive.
Proposed improvements or replacements to the current voting system
Approval voting is a non-rank-order but graded system in which voters may select all candidates that meet with the voter’s approval. The candidate with the highest approval score (i.e. approved by the most voters) wins the election. In elections with three or more candidates, voters may indicate approval of more than one candidate.
In 2017, the Colorado legislature considered approval voting. If the bill had passed, Colorado would have been the first state to approve approval voting legislation, but the bill was postponed indefinitely.
In 2018, Fargo, North Dakota, passed a local ballot initiative adopting approval voting for the city’s local elections, and it was used to elect officials in June 2020, becoming the first United States city and jurisdiction to adopt approval voting.
In November 2020, St. Louis passed Proposition D to authorize a variant of approval voting (as unified primary) for municipal offices.
Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked voting, also called ranked choice voting in the United States, is a ballot design where voters can rank their choices. Popular methods used in some jurisdictions around the world include a system called instant-runoff voting (IRV) to elect one candidate, or a system called the single transferable vote (STV) to elect multiple candidates. Each voter ranks all (or at least some) of the available options. If one option is ranked first by a majority of voters, it wins. Otherwise, the option(s) obtaining the fewest votes is (are) eliminated, and the options ranked second by those voters get those votes.
IRV is being promoted in the U.S. by numerous individuals and organizations. One of these is FairVote, which provides a long list of endorsers of IRV, including President Obama, Senators John McCain and Bernie Sanders, five U.S. Representatives, policy analyst Michael E. Arth, the Green, Libertarian, and Socialist parties, a dozen state chapters of the League of Women Voters, four state chapters of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party of Alaska, and many others. It is currently being used in some jurisdictions in the U.S., including the state of Maine and, since November 2020, the state of Alaska.
Fair Representation Act proposes to introduce STV, along with the multi-member districts, for elections to the House of Representatives.
Abolishing the Electoral College
There have long been concerns about problems with the Electoral College method of selecting the president and vice president. Under this system, the party that wins a plurality in a given state gets all that state’s electoral votes. (In Maine and Nebraska, the plurality rule applies to each congressional district.)
Modern polling has allowed presidential campaigns to determine which states are “swing states” (also called “battleground states”) and which will provide near-certain victories for either the Republican or Democratic candidates. The campaigns then increase their chances of winning by focusing primarily on the swing states. This effectively disenfranchises voters in other states to the extent that their concerns differ from those of voters in swing states.
Officially abolishing the Electoral College would require amending the U.S. Constitution. However, the same effect could be achieved if the Electoral College representatives from states with a majority of the electoral votes were all committed to vote for the presidential slate that achieves a national plurality (or the majority after instant-runoff voting): Presidential candidates would then have to compete for votes in all 50 states, not just the typically less than a dozen swing states.
This is the idea behind the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. As of November 2019, sixteen states with electoral votes totaling 196 had approved the compact. To take effect it must be approved by states with electoral votes totaling 270, just over half of the 538 current total electoral votes.
In the United States House of Representatives and many other legislative bodies such as city councils, members are elected from districts, whose boundaries are changed periodically through a process known as redistricting. When this process is manipulated to benefit a particular political party or incumbent, the result is known as gerrymandering. The Open Our Democracy Act & the For the People Act are bills designed to end gerrymandering. The For the People Act passed the United States House of Representatives on March 3, 2020. As of June 2021, it has not been passed by the United States Senate.
Organizations promoting changes in redistricting include FairVote, RepresentUs and EndGerrymandering.com.
Voting is not required of citizens in any state, so elections are decided by those who show up. Politicians target their message at getting their own supporters out to the polls, rather than winning over undecided voters or apathetic citizens. One solution to this problem is compulsory voting.
Compulsory voting has been criticized as “vaguely un-American” but potentially beneficial to democracy.
Campaign finance reform in the United States
Campaign finance laws in the United States have been a contentious political issue since the early days of the union. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002, also known as “McCain–Feingold“, is the most recent major federal law affecting campaign finance, the key provisions of which prohibited unregulated contributions (commonly referred to as “soft money“) to national political parties and limited the use of corporate and union money to fund ads discussing political issues within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election, until BCRA’s provisions limiting corporate and union expenditures for issue advertising were overturned in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life.
Contributions, donations or payments to politicians or political parties, including a campaign committee, newsletter fund, advertisements in convention bulletins, admission to dinners or programs that benefit a political party or political candidate and a political action committee (PAC), are not tax-deductible from income taxes.
To gain votes from recently enfranchised, unpropertied voters, Andrew Jackson launched his campaign for the 1828 election through a network of partisan newspapers across the nation. After his election, Jackson began a political patronage system that rewarded political party operatives, which had a profound effect on future elections. Eventually, appointees were expected to contribute portions of their pay back to the political party. During the Jacksonian era, some of the first attempts were made by corporations to influence politicians. Jackson claimed that his charter battle against the Second Bank of the United States was one of the great struggles between democracy and the money power. While it was rumored that The Bank of the United States spent over $40,000 from 1830 to 1832 in an effort to stop Jackson’s re-election, Chairman Biddle of the BUS only spent “tens of thousands to distribute information favorable to the bank.” This expenditure can be conceived as being spent “against” Jackson, because of the competing ideals of the Bank and Jackson’s anti-bank platform.
In the 1850s, Pennsylvania Republican Simon Cameron began to develop what became known as the “Pennsylvania idea” of applying the wealth of corporations to help maintain Republican control of the legislature. Political machines across the country used the threat of hostile legislation to force corporate interests into paying for the defeat of the measures. U.S. Senators of the time were elected not by popular vote, but by state legislatures, whose votes could sometimes be bought. Exposed bribery occurred in Colorado, Kansas, Montana and West Virginia.
Abraham Lincoln’s attempt to finance his own 1858 Senate run bankrupted him, even though he had arranged a number of $500 expense accounts from wealthy donors. However, he was able to regain enough money in his law practice to purchase an Illinois newspaper to support him in the presidential election of 1860, for which he gained the financial support of businessmen in Philadelphia and New York City.
After the Civil War, parties increasingly relied on wealthy individuals for support, including Jay Cooke, the Vanderbilts, and the Astors. In the absence of a civil service system, parties also continued to rely heavily on financial support from government employees, including assessments of a portion of their federal pay. The first federal campaign finance law, passed in 1867, was a Naval Appropriations Bill which prohibited officers and government employees from soliciting contributions from Navy yard workers. Later, the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 established the civil service and extended the protections of the Naval Appropriations Bill to all federal civil service workers. However, this loss of a major funding source increased pressure on parties to solicit funding from corporate and individual wealth.
In the campaign of 1872, a group of wealthy New York Democrats pledged $10,000 each to pay for the costs of promoting the election. On the Republican side, one Ulysses S. Grant supporter alone contributed one fourth of the total finances. One historian said that never before was a candidate under such a great obligation to men of wealth. Vote buying and voter coercion were common in this era. After more standardized ballots were introduced, these practices continued, applying methods such as requiring voters to use carbon paper to record their vote publicly in order to be paid.
Boies Penrose mastered post-Pendleton Act corporate funding through extortionist tactics, such as squeeze bills (legislation threatening to tax or regulate business unless funds were contributed.) During his successful 1896 U.S. Senate campaign, he raised a quarter million dollars within 48 hours. He allegedly told supporters that they should send him to Congress to enable them to make even more money.
In 1896, a wealthy Ohio industrialist, shipping magnate and political operative, Mark Hanna became Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Hanna directly contributed $100,000 to the nomination campaign of fellow Ohioan William McKinley, but recognized that more would be needed to fund the general election campaign. Hanna systematized fund-raising from the business community. He assessed banks 0.25% of their capital, and corporations were assessed in relation to their profitability and perceived stake in the prosperity of the country. McKinley’s run became the prototype of the modern commercial advertising campaign, putting the President-to-be’s image on buttons, billboards, posters, and so on. Business supporters, determined to defeat the Democratic-populist William Jennings Bryan, were more than happy to give, and Hanna actually refunded or turned down what he considered to be “excessive” contributions that exceeded a business’s assessment.
Twentieth-century Progressive advocates, together with journalists and political satirists, argued to the general public that the policies of vote buying and excessive corporate and moneyed influence were abandoning the interests of millions of taxpayers. They advocated strong antitrust laws, restricting corporate lobbying and campaign contributions, and greater citizen participation and control, including standardized secret ballots, strict voter registration and women’s suffrage.
In his first term, President Theodore Roosevelt, following President McKinley’s assassination of 1901, began trust-busting and anti-corporate-influence activities, but fearing defeat, turned to bankers and industrialists for support in what turned out to be his 1904 landslide campaign. Roosevelt was embarrassed by his corporate financing and was unable to clear a suspicion of a quid pro quo exchange with E.H. Harriman for what was an eventually unfulfilled ambassador nomination. There was a resulting national call for reform, but Roosevelt claimed that it was legitimate to accept large contributions if there were no implied obligation. However, in his 1905 message to Congress following the election, he proposed that “contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law.” The proposal, however, included no restrictions on campaign contributions from the private individuals who owned and ran corporations. Roosevelt also called for public financing of federal candidates via their political parties. The movement for a national law to require disclosure of campaign expenditures, begun by the National Publicity Law Association, was supported by Roosevelt but delayed by Congress for a decade.
Tillman Act of 1907
This first effort at wide-ranging reform was the Tillman Act of 1907 which prohibited corporations and nationally chartered (interstate) banks from making direct monetary contributions to federal candidates. However, weak enforcement mechanisms made the Act ineffective.
Disclosure requirements and spending limits for House and Senate candidates followed in 1910 and 1911. General contribution limits were enacted in the Federal Corrupt Practices Act (1925). An amendment to the Hatch Act of 1939 set an annual ceiling of $3 million for political parties’ campaign expenditures and $5,000 for individual campaign contributions. The Smith-Connally Act (1943) and Taft-Hartley Act (1947) extended the corporate ban to labor unions.
Federal Elections Campaign Act and the Watergate Amendments
All of these efforts were largely ineffective, easily circumvented and rarely enforced. In 1971, however, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act, known as FECA, requiring broad disclosure of campaign finance. In 1974, fueled by public reaction to the Watergate Scandal, Congress passed amendments to the Act establishing a comprehensive system of regulation and enforcement, including public financing of presidential campaigns and creation of a central enforcement agency, the Federal Election Commission. Other provisions included limits on contributions to campaigns and expenditures by campaigns, individuals, corporations and other political groups.
The 1976 decision of the US Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo struck down various FECA limits on spending as unconstitutional violations of free speech. Among other changes, this removed limits on candidate expenditures unless the candidate accepts public financing.
Reforms of the 1980s and 1990s
In 1986, several bills were killed in the U.S. Senate by bipartisan maneuvers which did not allow the bills to come up for a vote. The bill would impose strict controls for campaign fund raising. Later in 1988, legislative and legal setbacks on proposals designed to limit overall campaign spending by candidates were shelved after a Republican filibuster. In addition, a constitutional amendment to override a Supreme Court decision failed to get off the ground. In 1994, Senate Democrats had more bills blocked by Republicans including a bill setting spending limits and authorizing partial public financing of congressional elections. In 1996, bipartisan legislation for voluntary spending limits which rewards those who bare soft money was killed by a Republican filibuster.
In 1997, Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI) sought to eliminate soft money and TV advertising expenditures, but the legislation was defeated by a Republican filibuster. Several different proposals were made in 1999 by both parties. The Campaign Integrity Act (H.R. 1867), proposed by Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), would have banned soft money, which was not yet regulated and could be spent on ads that did not petition for the election or defeat of a specific candidate, and raised limits on hard money. The Citizen Legislature & Political Act sponsored by Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) would have repealed all federal freedom act contribution limits and expedited and expanded disclosure (H.R. 1922 in 1999, the 106th Congress, and reintroduced with different numbers through 2007, the 110th Congress). The Shays–Meehan Campaign Reform Act (H.R. 417) evolved into the McCain–Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
The Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also called the McCain-Feingold bill after its chief sponsors, John McCain and Russ Feingold. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on February 14, 2002, with 240 yeas and 189 nays, including 6 members who did not vote. Final passage in the Senate came after supporters mustered the bare minimum of 60 votes needed to shut off debate. The bill passed the Senate, 60-40 on March 20, 2002, and was signed into law by President Bush on March 27, 2002. In signing the law, Bush expressed concerns about the constitutionality of parts of the legislation but concluded, “I believe that this legislation, although far from perfect, will improve the current financing system for Federal campaigns.” The bill was the first significant overhaul of federal campaign finance laws since the post-Watergate scandal era. Academic research has used game theory to explain Congress’s incentives to pass the Act.
The BCRA was a mixed bag for those who wanted to remove big money from politics. It eliminated all soft money donations to the national party committees, but it also doubled the contribution limit of hard money, from $1,000 to $2,000 per election cycle, with a built-in increase for inflation. In addition, the bill aimed to curtail ads by non-party organizations by banning the use of corporate or union money to pay for “electioneering communications,” defined as broadcast advertising that identifies a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or nominating convention, or 60 days of a general election. This provision of McCain-Feingold, sponsored by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and Vermont Independent James Jeffords, as introduced applied only to for-profit corporations, but was extended to incorporate non-profit issue organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund or the National Rifle Association, as part of the “Wellstone Amendment,” sponsored by Senator Paul Wellstone.
The law was challenged as unconstitutional by groups and individuals including the California State Democratic Party, the National Rifle Association, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), the Senate Majority Whip. After moving through lower courts, in September 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, McConnell v. FEC. On Wednesday, December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that upheld its key provisions.
Since then, campaign finance limitations continued to be challenged in the Courts. In 2005 in Washington state, Thurston County Judge Christopher Wickham ruled that media articles and segments were considered in-kind contributions under state law. The heart of the matter focused on the I-912 campaign to repeal a fuel tax, and specifically two broadcasters for Seattle conservative talker KVI. Judge Wickham’s ruling was eventually overturned on appeal in April 2007, with the Washington Supreme Court holding that on-air commentary was not covered by the State’s campaign finance laws (No New Gas Tax v. San Juan County).
In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued two decisions on campaign finance. In Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., it held that certain advertisements might be constitutionally entitled to an exception from the ‘electioneering communications’ provisions of McCain-Feingold limiting broadcast ads that merely mention a federal candidate within 60 days of an election. On remand, a lower court then held that certain ads aired by Wisconsin Right to Life in fact merited such an exception. The Federal Election Commission appealed that decision, and in June 2007, the Supreme Court held in favor of Wisconsin Right to Life. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court declined to overturn the electioneering communications limits in their entirety, but established a broad exemption for any ad that could have a reasonable interpretation as an ad about legislative issues.
Also in 2006, the Supreme Court held that a Vermont law imposing mandatory limits on spending was unconstitutional, under the precedent of Buckley v. Valeo. In that case, Randall v. Sorrell, the Court also struck down Vermont’s contribution limits as unconstitutionally low, the first time that the Court had ever struck down a contribution limit.
In March 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether or not the law could restrict advertising of a documentary about Hillary Clinton. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was decided in January 2010, the Supreme Court finding that §441b’s restrictions on expenditures were invalid and could not be applied to Hillary: The Movie.
DISCLOSE Act of 2010
The DISCLOSE Act was proposed in July 2010. The bill would have amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and establish additional disclosure requirements for election spending. The bill would have imposed new donor and contribution disclosure requirements on nearly all organizations that air political ads independently of candidates or the political parties. The legislation would have required the sponsor of the ad to appear in the ad itself. President Obama argued that the bill would reduce foreign influence over American elections. Democrats needed at least one Republican to support the measure in order to get the 60 votes to overcome GOP procedural delays, but were unsuccessful.
Current proposals for reform
Voting with dollars
The voting with dollars plan would establish a system of modified public financing coupled with an anonymous campaign contribution process. It was originally described in detail by Yale Law School professors Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres in their 2002 book Voting with Dollars: A New Paradigm for Campaign Finance. All voters would be given a $50 publicly funded voucher to donate to federal political campaigns. All donations including both the $50 voucher and additional private contributions, must be made anonymously through the FEC. Ackerman and Ayres include model legislation in their book in addition to detailed discussion as to how such a system could be achieved and its legal basis.
Of the Patriot dollars (e.g. $50 per voter) given to voters to allocate, they propose $25 going to presidential campaigns, $15 to Senate campaigns, and $10 to House campaigns. Within those restrictions the voucher can be split among any number of candidates for any federal race and between the primary and general elections. At the end of the current election cycle any unspent portions of this voucher would expire and could not be rolled over to subsequent elections for that voter. In the context of the 2004 election cycle $50 multiplied by the approximately 120 million people who voted would have yielded about $6 billion in “public financing” compared to the approximate $4 billion spent in 2004 for all federal elections (House, Senate and Presidential races) combined. Ackerman and Ayres argue that this system would pool voter money and force candidates to address issues of importance to a broad spectrum of voters. Additionally they argue this public finance scheme would address taxpayers’ concerns that they have “no say” in where public financing monies are spent, whereas in the Voting with dollars system each taxpayer who votes has discretion over their contribution.
Lessig notes that the cost of this is tiny relative to the cost of corporate welfare, estimated at $100 billion in the 2012 US federal budget. However, this considers only direct subsidies identified by the Cato Institute. It ignores tax loopholes and regulatory and trade decisions, encouraging business mergers and other activities that can stifle competition, creativity and economic growth; the direct subsidies can be a tiny fraction of these indirect costs.
The second aspect of the system increases some private donation limits, but all contributions must be made anonymously through the FEC. In this system, when a contributor makes a donation to a campaign, they send their money to the FEC, indicating to which campaign they want it to go. The FEC masks the money and distributes it directly to the campaigns in randomized chunks over a number of days. Ackerman and Ayres compare this system to the reforms adopted in the late 19th century aimed to prevent vote buying, which led to our current secret ballot process. Prior to that time voting was conducted openly, allowing campaigns to confirm that voters cast ballots for the candidates they had been paid to support. Ackerman and Ayres contend that if candidates do not know for sure who is contributing to their campaigns they are unlikely to take unpopular stances to court large donors which could jeopardize donations flowing from voter vouchers. Conversely, large potential donors will not be able to gain political access or favorable legislation in return for their contributions since they cannot prove to candidates the supposed extent of their financial support.
Another method allows the candidates to raise funds from private donors, but provides matching funds for the first chunk of donations. For instance, the government might “match” the first $250 of every donation. This would effectively make small donations more valuable to a campaign, potentially leading them to put more effort into pursuing such donations, which are believed to have less of a corrupting effect than larger gifts and enhance the power of less-wealthy individuals. Such a system is currently in place in the U.S. presidential primaries. As of February 2008, there were fears that this system provided a safety net for losers in these races, as shown by loan taken out by John McCain’s campaign that used the promise of matching funds as collateral. However, in February 2009 the Federal Election Commission found no violation of the law because McCain permissibly withdrew from the Matching Payment Program and thus was released from his obligations. It also found no reason to believe that a violation occurred as a result of the Committee’s reporting of McCain’s loan. The Commission closed the files.
Another method, which supporters call clean money, clean elections, gives each candidate who chooses to participate a certain, set amount of money. In order to qualify for this money, the candidates must collect a specified number of signatures and small (usually $5) contributions. The candidates are not allowed to accept outside donations or to use their own personal money if they receive this public funding. Candidates receive matching funds, up to a limit, when they are outspent by privately funded candidates, attacked by independent expenditures, or their opponent benefits from independent expenditures. This is the primary difference between clean money public financing systems and the presidential campaign system, which many have called “broken” because it provides no extra funds when candidates are attacked by 527s or other independent expenditure groups. Supporters claim that Clean Elections matching funds are so effective at leveling the playing field in Arizona that during the first full year of its implementation, disproportionate funding between candidates was a factor in only 2% of the races. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Federal Election Commission, however, cast considerable doubt on the constitutionality of these provisions, and in 2011 the Supreme Court held that key provisions of the Arizona law – most notably its matching fund provisions – were unconstitutional in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett.
This procedure has been in place in races for all statewide and legislative offices in Arizona and Maine since 2000. Connecticut passed a Clean Elections law in 2005, along with the cities of Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico, although Portland’s was repealed by voter initiative in 2010. Sixty-nine percent of the voters in Albuquerque voted yes to Clean Elections. A 2006 poll showed that 85% of Arizonans familiar with their Clean Elections system thought it was important to Arizona voters. However, a clean elections initiative in California was defeated by a wide margin at the November 2006 election, with just 25.7% in favor, 74.3% opposed, and in 2008 Alaska voters rejected a clean elections proposal by a two to one margin. Many other states (such as New Jersey) have some form of limited financial assistance for candidates, but New Jersey’s experiment with Clean Elections was ended in 2008, in part due to a sense that the program failed to accomplish its goals. Wisconsin and Minnesota have had partial public funding since the 1970s, but the systems have largely fallen into disuse.
A clause in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“McCain-Feingold”) required the nonpartisan General Accounting Office to conduct a study of clean elections programs in Arizona and Maine. The report, issued in May 2003, found none of the objectives of the systems had yet been attained, but cautioned that because of the relatively short time the programs had been in place, “it is too soon to determine the extent to which the goals of Maine’s and Arizona’s public financing programs are being met… [and] We are not making any recommendations in this report.” A 2006 study by the Center for Governmental Studies (an advocate for campaign finance reform) found that Clean Elections programs resulted in more candidates, more competition, more voter participation, and less influence-peddling. In 2008, however, a series of studies conducted by the Center for Competitive Politics (which generally opposes regulation and taxpayer funded political campaigns), found that the programs in Maine, Arizona, and New Jersey had failed to accomplish their stated goals, including electing more women, reducing government spending, reducing special interest influence on elections, bringing more diverse backgrounds into the legislature, or meeting most other stated objectives, including increasing competition or voter participation. These reports confirmed the results of an earlier study by the conservative/libertarian Goldwater Institute on Arizona’s program.
Occupy movement-inspired constitutional amendments
The Occupy Movement, spreading across the United States and other nations with over 1,500 sites, called for U.S. campaign finance reform eliminating corporate influence on politics and reducing social and economic inequality. The Occupy Wall Street Demands Working Group, a not-for-profit organization branching off from the Occupy Wall Street movement, published the 99 Percent Declaration of demands, goals, and solutions, including a call for the implementation of a public financing system for political campaigns and an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. FEC. Occupy movement protesters also joined the call for a constitutional amendment. In response to the Occupy Wall Street protests, Representative Ted Deutch introduced the “Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy” (OCCUPIED) constitutional amendment on November 18, 2011. The OCCUPIED amendment would outlaw the use of for-profit corporation money in U.S. election campaigns and give Congress and states the authority to create a public campaign finance system. Unions and non-profit organizations will still be able to contribute to campaigns. On November 1, 2011, Senator Tom Udall also introduced a constitutional amendment in Congress to reform campaign finance which would allow Congress and state legislatures to establish public campaign finance. Two other constitutional campaign finance reform amendments were introduced in Congress in November, 2011. Similar amendments have been advanced by Dylan Ratigan, Karl Auerbach, Cenk Uygur through Wolf PAC, and other political organizations, such as Move to Amend and American Promise.
Harvard law professor and Creative Commons board member Lawrence Lessig called for a constitutional convention in a September 24–25, 2011 conference co-chaired by the Tea Party Patriots‘ national coordinator, in Lessig’s October 5 book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It, and at the Occupy protest in Washington, DC. Reporter Dan Froomkin said the book offers a manifesto for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, focusing on the core problem of corruption in both political parties and their elections, and Lessig provides credibility to the movement. Lessig’s initial constitutional amendment would allow legislatures to limit political contributions from non-citizens, including corporations, anonymous organizations, and foreign nationals, and he also supports public campaign financing and electoral college reform to establish the one person, one vote principle. Lessig’s web site convention.idea.informer.com allows anyone to propose and vote on constitutional amendments.
CFR28 is a proposed a constitutional amendment designed to deliver campaign finance reform without infringing on free speech. It claims to do this using two primary provisions.
First, CFR28 restricts candidate funding to consist of small citizen contributions and public financing. These citizen contribution limits are set biannually at one percent of the average annual income of all Americans (currently about $500), so limits adjust with inflation.
Second, to overcome the Citizens United v. FEC decision that equated money spent on political speech with the speech itself (thus giving such spending First Amendment protection), CFR28 specifically targets independent political advertising for elimination. It does this by defining advertising as uninvited media that costs more than the limit mentioned above. This definition still allows unlimited spending on news, commentary and entertainment about candidates, but the audience will only see such media if they choose to after being told who is sponsoring it. All other speech about candidates is unlimited.
CFR28 further claims to prevent foreign influence on American elections because foreign sponsored media will not be able to hide among messaging from domestic superPACs since superPAC advertising will be eliminated.
At almost two pages and the first amendment with subsections, CFR28 is longer than other proposed constitutional amendments on campaign finances as it attempts to eliminate loopholes and provide some implementation provisions.
As a loophole example, CFR28 disallows any funding source not authorized under CFR28 to eliminate all corporate funding and nullifying the Buckley v. Valeo decision which allows candidates themselves to spend unlimited personal funds on their campaigns. And by preventing citizens from giving to candidates outside their voting district and state (except for the President), it also voids the decision in McCutcheon v. FEC which allowed citizens to contribute to an unlimited number of candidates around the country.
CFR28’s implementing provisions include preventing subsidies and interference in citizen choices to help candidates and it allows unlimited volunteering to help candidates. It also has reporting requirements and mandates that Congress enact relevant laws “to ensure manifold commitment to the integrity of American democracy” in order to compel networks and social media to cooperate.
In addition to providing the text of the proposed constitutional amendment, the CFR28.org web site explains it line-by-line both in writing and through several videos. It also includes a blog on related topics.
Redefining Quid Pro Quo
A different approach would allow private contributions as they currently are; however it would severely penalize those who gain substantive, material favors in exchange for their contributions and those who grant such favors in exchange for receiving contributions. Thus new limitations would not be imposed on what one can give—but rather on what one can get in return. (Needless to say, if such additional limitations could be introduced, many of the special interests would contribute much less than they currently do, and the effects of the remaining contributions would be much less corrupting). Currently quid pro quo is considered a bribery only if the person who provided material incentives to a public official explicitly tied those on receiving a specific favor in return.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in January 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions can not constitutionally be prohibited from promoting the election of one candidate over another candidate.
Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion found that the BCRA §203 prohibition of all independent expenditures by corporations and unions violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The majority wrote, “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”
Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority also noted that since the First Amendment (and the Court) do not distinguish between media and other corporations, these restrictions would allow Congress to suppress political speech in newspapers, books, television and blogs. The Court overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990), which had held that a state law that prohibited corporations from using treasury money to support or oppose candidates in elections did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court also overruled that portion of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003), that upheld BCRA’s restriction of corporate spending on “electioneering communications”. The Court’s ruling effectively freed corporations and unions to spend money both on “electioneering communications” and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates (although not to contribute directly to candidates or political parties).
The majority argued that the First Amendment protects associations of individuals as well as individual speakers, and further that the First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker. Corporations, as associations of individuals, therefore have speech rights under the First Amendment.
Justice Stevens, J. wrote, in partial dissent:The basic premise underlying the Court’s ruling is its iteration, and constant reiteration, of the proposition that the First Amendment bars regulatory distinctions based on a speaker’s identity, including its “identity” as a corporation. While that glittering generality has rhetorical appeal, it is not a correct statement of the law. Nor does it tell us when a corporation may engage in electioneering that some of its shareholders oppose. It does not even resolve the specific question whether Citizens United may be required to finance some of its messages with the money in its PAC. The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.
Justice Stevens also wrote: “The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution. Before turning to the question whether to overrule Austin and part of McConnell, it is important to explain why the Court should not be deciding that question.”
Senator McCain, one of the two original sponsors of campaign finance reform, noted after the decisions that “campaign finance reform is dead” – but predicted a voter backlash once it became obvious how much money corporations and unions now could and would pour into campaigns.
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll in early February 2010 it was found that roughly 80% of Americans were opposed to the January 2010 Supreme court’s ruling. The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent). In response to the ruling, a grassroots, bipartisan group called Move to Amend was created to garner support for a constitutional amendment overturning corporate personhood and declaring that money is not speech.
McCutcheon et al. v. Federal Election Commission
On April 2, 2014, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that the 1971 FECA’s aggregate limits restricting how much money a donor may contribute in total to all candidates or committees violated the First Amendment. The controlling opinion was written by Chief Justice Roberts, and joined by Justices Scalia, Alito and Kennedy; Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment but wrote separately to argue that all limits on contributions were unconstitutional. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor.
If we can win it all back in 2022 and 2024, what will we have left of our country? Will we still have a country or will China control us? I will just briefly mention this matter, because first of all this article is pretty lengthy as well and secondly this matter really deserves an article all by itself. I know I have mentioned China in a few postings already, however, this is our most serious external threat ahead of us.
After doing all the research for this article, I have come to a few conclusions, one I already briefly mentioned and the rest I will discuss next. We are making this election process entirely too complicated. We need to return to the basics. The person with the most votes wins, period. One vote-one person. Vote in person, unless you are either and invalid or are out of the country for work or military. No need an ID with photo to vote. Even if you don’t have a drivers license you can get a photo ID. They are very cheap. Everybody should have one. Instead of just one day to vote you have 1 week to vote, but on the closing of the 7th day, that is it. No late votes accepted. No mass mail in ballots period. You only get a mail in ballot by request and if you have a need for it. I have discussed in a previous article on voter reform an how to maintain and ensure accurate voters registrations, so I won’t go into it. But I have had a slight change of heart. I think if you get an ID or A drivers license and you are at least 18 years old, you are automatically registered to vote. I am not sure if that will work, but it is something to ponder.
This is one I already mentioned before as well. Donations to the political parties need to have a cap. I think $500 to a $1,000 should take care of that problem.
We need to close the borders, so that the democrats won’t be able to flood the country with democratic voters.
Finally, we need to eliminate all the fraudulent laws that were passed last year in the Blue states. They simply leave too many loopholes for cheating. If these things are not done, I feel that the democrats will hold onto the power in this country. Eventually the country as we know it will no longer exist.
en.wikipedia.org, ” Electoral Fraud,” By Wikipedia Editors; en.wikipedia.org, ” Election Security,” By Wikipedia Editors; carnegie.org, “Voting Rights: A Short History;” en.wikipedia.org, ” Electoral Reform in the United States,” By Wikipedia Editors; en.wikipedia.org, “Campaign finance reform in the United States,” By Wikipedia Editors; townhall.com, “‘A Win for Election Integrity’: Supreme Court Hands Democrats a Big Loss,” By Reagan McCarthy;
‘A Win for Election Integrity’: Supreme Court Hands Democrats a Big Loss
The Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s voting law that cracks down on ballot harvesting and takes aim at mail-in ballot fraud, despite a challenge from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The high court ruled that the reforms in Arizona’s law do not violate the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Barrett sided with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, while Justices Kagan, Breyer, and Sotomayor said that the law violates Section 2 of the VRA.
“The present dispute concerns two features of Arizona voting law, which generally makes it quite easy for residents to vote. All Arizonans may vote by mail for 27 days before an election using an ‘early ballot,’” Justice Alito wrote for the majority opinion. “The regulations at issue in this suit govern precinct based election-day voting and early mail-in voting. Voters who choose to vote in person on election day in a county that uses the precinct system must vote in their assigned precincts. If a voter goes to the wrong polling place, poll workers are trained to direct the voter to the right location…In light of the principles set out above, neither Arizona’s out-of-precinct rule nor its ballot-collection law violates [section 2] of the VRA. Arizona’s out-of-precinct rule enforces the requirement that voters who choose to vote in person on election day must do so in their assigned precincts. Having to identify one’s own polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the ‘usual burdens of voting.’”
Brnovich said that the court’s decision is a win for election integrity in Arizona and nationwide.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also weighed in on the big loss for the DNC, applauding the court for seeing through Democrats’ “partisan lies.”
“Today’s United States Supreme Court ruling is a resounding victory for election integrity and the rule of law. Democrats were attempting to make Arizona ballots less secure for political gain, and the Court saw right through their partisan lies. In Arizona and across the nation, states know best how to manage their own elections,” McDaniel said in a release. “The RNC is proud to have worked closely with the Arizona GOP to support this historic victory, and we will continue our comprehensive efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
While the Supreme Court sides with common-sense voting reforms, the Biden administration is suing Georgia for the newly-enacted voting law that also aims to crack down on fraud while expanding access to the ballot box.
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