Corrupting Elections

Corrupting Elections

[This is part of our Trump’s Threat to Democracy project.]

From the Protect Democracy Corrupting Elections Page

[Go to the page to see election-security measures they are working on.]
[I inserted the numbers and refer to them in the below supporting documentation.]

“In recent years, we’ve seen a disturbing trend in which elected officials have abused their powers to tilt that playing field for their own advantage. (1) In 2018, for instance, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp used his authority over elections to restrict voter registration and participation in order to improve his own chances in a bid for governor. President Trump has also shown a willingness to undermine our elections for his own advantage, (2) using U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure that country’s leaders to pursue a politically advantageous investigation; (3) attempting to undermine the legitimacy of elections by repeatedly calling into question the results; and (4) exaggerating the prevalence of voter fraud in what appears to be a prelude to restricting the franchise.”

(5) In addition to the concerns raised by Project Democracy, we’d like to investigate the ways in which the 2020 election might be stolen.

Below we provide details about each of the above concerns.

From an American Public Media article on former Georgia Secretary of State, now Georgia Governor Brian Kemp:

“On a single day in late July 2017, Kemp’s office had removed from the rolls 560,000 Georgians who had been flagged because they’d skipped one too many elections. Abrams would later call the purge the “use-it-or-lose-it scheme.” An APM Reports investigation last year estimated 107,000 of the people purged under the policy would otherwise have been eligible to vote last year, . . .”

[See CNN Elections Results: Abrams lost by a little less than 55,000 votes]

The (invariably Republican) politicians who support such voter roll purges say that the practice prevents election fraud. There is little evidence to support this claim [see final quote from APM article below]. What it ends up doing is make many otherwise eligible voters, a majority of whom favor Democrats [in the APM article, there’s a graph showing that almost 57,000 more voters from the rolls in strong-Abrams precincts than in strong-Kemp precincts], ineligible to vote. The current (right-leaning) Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of these practices by a (surprise, surprise) 5-4 margin:

“Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the practice on a narrow 5-4 vote just months before the 2018 midterm elections. That paved the way for officials in Georgia and at least nine other states, most led by Republicans, to continue with the purges, which typically happen in each odd year after a federal election. More purges are planned in the coming months, ahead of the 2020 election, and they have the potential to knock hundreds of thousands from the rolls, helping to shape the electorate in some key battleground states, including Georgia and Ohio, for the coming presidential election.”

“Just how the purges guard against voter fraud is unknown, election experts say. A database of election fraud investigations compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation identified just one case of voter fraud in the past two years among Oklahoma, Ohio and Georgia. That case involved the fraudulent use of an absentee ballot.”

From a Buzzfeed Summary of the Trump impeachment evidence:

“President Trump faces two articles of impeachment against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

The article recaps the evidence presented in the trial as follows:
[The article gives a details about each item, which are worth reading]

“Trump’s administration offered Ukraine a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into energy company Burisma and the Bidens, an ambassador said.”

“Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine said it was critical for Ukraine’s president to support the investigation.”

“Ukraine’s president was concerned the investigation put his country in the middle of domestic US politics, a US ambassador said.”

“Thirty minutes before Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, Volker texted a Ukrainian official that the investigations were key to arrange a White House visit.”

“In the phone call, Trump told Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate a company the Democratic National Committee hired in 2016, Hunter Biden, and Joe Biden.”

“Ninety minutes after the phone call, the Defense Department was told to hold off on military aid to Ukraine.”

“The day after the phone call, Trump was overheard personally asking if Ukraine was going to follow through on investigations, an embassy worker said.”

[“David Holmes, counselor of political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, testified he overheard a phone call between Sondland and Trump.

Holmes: “Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky quote, ‘loves your ass.’ I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that, ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that, ‘President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.'”]

“But Trump’s attorneys said the Bidens deserved to be investigated for corruption.”
[“Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi implied Joe Biden forced Ukraine to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Burisma, the energy company tied to his son, Hunter Biden.

Democrats, however, argued that the removal of the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was widely considered to be corrupt and removed in accordance with US policy and after prompting from many other western nations as well. Shokin also was no longer investigating Burisma at the time he was ousted.”]

“Ukraine’s president later said, Nobody pushed me.'”

“Giuliani said that Trump himself wanted Zelensky to make a public statement about an investigation into the 2016 election, the DNC server, and Burisma, Sondland testified.”

“Zelensky’s top adviser wanted a firm date for the promised White House visit before any formal statement on the investigations was made.”

“Giuliani, Volker, and Sondland edited the Ukrainian statement to specifically mention the 2016 election and Burisma.”

“Taylor testified that Sondland said Trump told him everything — a White House visit as well as military aid — depended on Ukraine announcing its investigation into Burisma and the 2016 election.”

“Trump then said he didn’t want any quid pro quo from Zelensky.”
[“Republicans have pointed to that statement as proof that the president was not looking for a quid pro quo. But Democrats pointed out that at the time the conversation took place, Trump knew a whistleblower complaint had been filed regarding his call with Zelensky and the investigation request.”]

“Trump told reporters in October he thought Ukraine and China should start a “major investigation” into the Bidens.”

“And Trump previously said he’d accept foreign help if it would win him reelection.”

“Trump’s acting chief of staff said military aid to Ukraine was indeed held up in connection to investigations into corruption, the DNC server, and the 2016 election.”

“Even if Trump had withheld the aid from Ukraine in exchange for help in the 2020 election, it didn’t merit impeachment, his lawyer said.”
[there’s a legal question; we have now a political choice]

Trump refuses to say if he will accept 2020 election results

NBC News: Trump says it could take “months” or “years” to know 2020 election results

“‘You know what? You’re not going to know this — possibly, if you really did it right — for months or for years. Because these ballots are all going to be lost, they’re all going to be gone,’ Trump said, repeating false claims about vote-by-mail ballots.”

Washington Post: How to prepare for Trump rejecting election results in November [July 27, 2020; by Brian Klass]:

“President Trump is laying the groundwork to do something that no previous president has ever done: falsely claim that an election was fixed against him in order to discredit the vote. Trump has repeatedly — and incorrectly — claimed the election will be ‘rigged’ against him. By promoting a series of wacky, debunked conspiracy theories, he has primed his supporters to wrongly believe he is the victim of some unknown, shadowy “deep state” plot. In an interview that aired last week, he refused to commit to accepting the results in November.” [see WP article for links]

The article quotes Nic Cheeseman of the University of Birmingham, an expert on contentious elections:

“There are five warning I always look for,” he told me. “Organized militias, a leader who is not prepared to lose, distrust of the political system, disinformation, and a potentially close contest. Right now, the U.S. has all five.”

The article lists five steps to counteract this threat: (1) “a bipartisan pact endorsing election results”; (2) “Second, shore up public confidence with oversight. State election officials can conduct quick randomized audits and release results that demonstrate the integrity of the process. Many states do not automatically mandate such audits, but there is still time to expand them before November.”; (3) media should do more to educate the public about election procedures — he gives the example of Trump saying mail-in ballots are problematic but absentee ballots are fine, but mail-in ballots = no-fault absentee ballots; (4) “state and local election officials should do more contingency planning for a pandemic election”; & (5) “it would help if the margin was clear and court rulings were swift and decisive to uphold democracy” [SO VOTE FOR BIDEN]

New Yorker: What happens if Trump fights the election results?

Brennan Center: Myth of Voter Fraud

“Extensive research reveals that fraud is very rare. Yet repeated, false allegations of fraud can make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to participate in elections.”

“The Brennan Center’s seminal report The Truth About Voter Fraud conclusively demonstrated that most allegations of fraud turn out to be baseless and that most of the few remaining allegations reveal irregularities and other forms of election misconduct. Numerous other studies, including one commissioned by the Trump administration, have reached the same conclusion.”

ACLU Video: Experts Debunk Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims

Atlantic: The Damage of Trump’s voter-fraud allegations can’t be undone [June 19, 2020; David A. Graham]:

“To test the effect of statements such as Trump’s, an interdisciplinary team of researchers showed research subjects statements from Trump and other GOP politicians and commentators alleging fraud in elections, either in small or great amounts. The results were distressing, if not altogether surprising: Republicans, as well as independents, saw their faith in the election system decrease. (Views among Democrats did not meaningfully change.) The effect was especially pronounced when subjects were split between approving or disapproving of Trump.”

Greg Palast in Salon: Here’s how Trump will steal the 2020 election
From this June 15, 2020 interview with investigative reporter Greg Palast:

“One of the primary things the Republicans tested in Georgia would be to see if the news media or others would try to find out just why the lines to vote were so very long. Forty precincts in Atlanta had no voting machines. That creates long lines especially when there are no paper ballots. If the machines break, they are supposed to have backup paper ballots. Of course, there were no paper ballots.”

He also sites the purging of voter rolls.

And the power of political operatives over the election booth:

“We are the only nation other than the recognized fake democracies such as Russia and China and Iran where the vote-counters are chosen by the political operatives.”

” … Even the Wall Street Journal said that Brian Kemp holding that title [as Georgia secretary of state) while running for governor was unethical. Having politically appointed voting officials in the United States is something that must be put to end.”

He discusses how the 12th Amendment could be used to steal the 2020 election:

“The 12th Amendment states that if the Electoral College does not reach a majority, which is 270, the election then goes to the House of Representatives. How could that possibly happen with Trump and Biden in 2020? The answer is the rabidly right-wing legislatures in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida say that there is so much voter fraud and that the mail-in ballots are not to be trusted. Trust me, those states are going to do things such as misprint ballots. Many ‘mistakes’ are going to occur in those red states.”

“So the result could be that Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida do not certify their electors, and Biden has lost those three states’ votes. There are still not enough votes for Trump, but Biden does not hit the 270 threshold in the Electoral College to be elected president.”

“The 2020 election now goes to the House of Representatives, where every state gets a single vote. … Most state delegations are majority Republican, even though the Republicans don’t control the House and have far fewer voters in America.”

He also cites concerns about intimidation and other vote-suppression methods:

“But even more important than intimidation of Democratic voters are demands for proof of residence and proof of citizenship. There are other ways to keep people from voting, such as checking to see if a person has paid their alimony or court fines. … ”

“There will be a massive official contesting of votes. In almost every state, the political parties are allowed to assign official poll workers who have the right to challenge a vote. … ”

“Unfortunately, many of the poll workers will just go along with it and say, ‘OK, we’ll give you a provisional ballot.’ One million provisional ballots were thrown in the garbage in 2016. It is very important for people to talk to other poll workers and summon the election judge and demand that you are allowed to vote. Do not accept a provisional ballot. They are effectively useless. … ”

Per Palast, the UN could not monitor this election, because the US does not meet the UN’s minimum standards.

“… The biggest single problem with voting in the United States is the massive purging of voter rolls, and that has already been done before Election Day. …”

He notes also that the US State Department uses exit polls to verify the legitimacy of foreign countries’ elections, but in many states in 2016, the exit polls showed Hillary winning, but the final vote went to Trump:

“For example, in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, exit polls show that Hillary Clinton won a huge victory over Trump. But the official count shows Trump squeaking by in those states. If such a thing happened in Ukraine or Peru or Serbia — I cite those three countries because exit polls there conflicted with the official tally and the United States refused to recognize those governments. Our government actually declared those victories to be phony. Yet in 2016, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and several other states showed Donald Trump losing in the exit polls. By the State Department’s own rules regarding elections, Donald Trump lost.”

Slate – Mark Stern – Aug 3. 2020 – How Trump could steal the election

Also about the possibility of Trump stealing the election, but with a slightly different scenario than the one in the Greg Palast interview:

“It is the late evening of Nov. 3, 2020—Election Day. The race is tight. It’s come down to the three states that President Donald Trump barely won in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Most in-person votes have been counted, and Trump holds a small lead in each state. But there are millions of mail-in ballots that election officials have not yet processed. Hundreds of thousands of voters dropped their ballots in the mail days ago, but they haven’t been received. Meanwhile, thousands of ballots that were mailed in time have been rejected due to alleged technical defects. The outcome of the election turns on all these outstanding votes. But Trump, on the basis of the results so far, declares victory and dismisses the remaining mail-in ballots as fraudulent and illegitimate. The Republican-controlled legislatures of all three states agree, assigning their electoral votes to the president. Trump has secured a second term in the White House.”

He cites Trump’s pre-election doubts of its legitimacy. And states: “The Republican Party has largely backed the presidents’ schemes, and the courts have resisted intervening to protect voting rights.”

He also discusses the Trump administration’s defunding of the US Post right when we most need them to meet the demands of mail-in voting during a pandemic. What happens if the votes don’t get to the election office by Election Day?

“As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has pointed out, every swing state except North Carolina counts only those mail-in ballots received by Election Day. If a ballot is postmarked by Election Day but delivered late, these states will not count them. Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias has filed lawsuits challenging this practice. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s five conservative justices made it clear that they do not think states are obligated to count late ballots postmarked by Election Day—even if the ballots were delayed by forces beyond a voter’s control. Elias has turned to state Supreme Courts for relief, but he has not yet had much luck. Indeed, by a 4–3 vote last Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the nullification of late ballots with a timely postmark. Its decision effectively ensures that the policy will stay in force through November.”

And then even if they do get the ballot in on time, they are usually verified by matching the signature to one on file:

” … These officials typically have little or no training in handwriting analysis—but even if they did, the procedure would be useless: Forensic document examiners have testified that even an expert requires at least 10 signature samples to account for normal variations. Election officials have two. This method is discriminatory, too: Voters who are disabled, young, elderly, or non-native English speakers are disproportionately disenfranchised by signature mismatch laws.” In some states, the would-be voters will also never be informed that their vote has been tossed, or be informed too late.

He also notes that because states have the right to appoint electors, the following scenario is possible:

“The legislatures of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are all controlled by Republicans. These bodies could quickly pass resolutions declaring Trump the victor, then appoint electors who will cast their votes for him. This gambit has never been tested in court, but it is possible to imagine the Supreme Court’s conservatives permitting it as a valid exercise of state legislatures’ constitutional authority.”

The Intercept – Aug 2020 – What if Trump won’t leave?

Atlantic – 3/29/2020 – How Trump could steal the election

9/3/2020 – Lawsuits that could decide 2020 election. Interview with law professor Justin Levitt.

Further Reading:

The Intercept – Aug 2020 – What if Trump won’t leave?

New Yorker – Aug 2020 – What if Trump fights the election results?

Atlantic – 3/29/2020 – How Trump could steal the election

Bartleby Willard, Amble Whistletown, and the SAWB crew have put this together.

[This is part of our Trump’s Threat to Democracy project.]

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

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