Twenty Ways Republicans Steal Elections

Of course, vote on November 6th, 2018 but understand the structures with which Republicans have used and continue to employ to steal our elections.

In We Can’t Wait for Elections, I reviewed the history of the 2000, 2004 and 2016 elections to explain that the time of free, fair and verifiable federal elections has passed. More specifically, here are twenty ways in which the 2018 election will be stolen from the American people.

20 Republican Attacks on the 2018 Elections

1. The Electoral College top

Two of the last three presidents lost the popular vote becoming President via the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.86 million votes and yet lost. “In the 2016 election, 14 states got 99% of the presidential campaign spending and received 95% of the campaign stops. Two-thirds of the campaign events took place in only six states. Most of the public was essentially left sitting on the sidelines…”

Two creative efforts to eliminate the Electoral College are Lawrence Lessig’s Equal Votes and The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Equal Votes plans to launch legal challenges based on the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, asking the Supreme Court to uphold, one person, one vote. The Compact works with state legislatures to agree together to award their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner, until participating states reach a 270 vote majority.

2. Gerrymandering top

With Republicans’ control of a majority of state legislatures, they’ve leveraged technology to maximize their number of house seats. In The Great Gerrymander of 2012, Sam Wang explains, “…the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, 16.7 million votes were cast for Republicans and 16.4 million votes were cast for Democrats. This elected 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats.” Similarly, Wisconsin Republicans “won 48 percent of the vote, but 60 of the state’s 99 legislative seats.”

packing and cracking gerrymandering

Visualization of Gerrymandering’s Packing and Cracking (view on a large screen)

Gerrymandering maximizes safe seats by packing opposition democrats into a few districts they win easily or cracking large democratic majorities into smaller parts across multiple Republican districts with large majorities. Watch CGP Grey’s video to understand how this works.

Congressional approval nationally is at 16%, but most incumbents win their districts easily. These gerrymandered “safe seats” eliminate political debate and compromise, increase corruption and decrease accountability, furthering Republicans ability to write laws that help them maintain undemocratic control.

The Supreme Court will take a closer look at gerrymandering this term focusing newer metrics for assessing its impact. This case could determine the fate of democracy in America.

Frankly, if extremist interests in the Republican party or Russia wished to keep Republicans in control, the lives of Anthony Kennedy and the four liberal justices may be at risk. Justice Breyer is 79, Anthony Kennedy is 81 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84. It’s likely their death might not seem unusual while its cause could appear ambiguous. While Putin is known for poisoning his enemies, we shouldn’t assume it’s always obvious.

3. Sabotaging the 2020 Census top

The Trump administration is working to weaken and destabilize the 2020 Census, which will determine the next population-based allocation of congressional seats and Electoral College members for each state.

Census funding, staffing and operations doesn’t grab headlines but its manipulation could undo any democracy we have left.

4. Hacking Voting Machines top

Hackers have repeatedly demonstrated vulnerabilities in all our electronic voting systems, many of which leave no paper trail, leaving our elections open to manipulation by foreign powers.

After learning of his company’s massive hack, former Equifax CEO Rich Smith said, “There’s those companies that have been breached and know it, and there are those companies that have been breached and don’t know it.” Personally, I’d multiply the number of identified hacking efforts times 3x or 10x to determine the number of successful hacks on our elections.

Vulnerabilities in voting machines have already affected our elections. “In 2006, touch-screen machines in Sarasota, Florida, came up 18,000 votes short during a congressional race that was decided by fewer than 400 votes.”

Twelve red states and three blue states continue using voting machines that produce unverifiable election results. Without the ability for citizens to verify their votes online or even for election officials to certify the results of voting machines, there is no way for us to know if election results are valid.

Often stolen elections are manipulated by just enough votes to appear legitimate, but in reality, hackers create subtle victory margins of hundreds or thousands of votes spread across numerous areas.

When a dictator says he won 98% of the vote, we’re pretty sure there was fraud. But, in most of Pennsylvania’s counties with hackable, unverifiable voting machines, there’s no way to know.

5. Attacking the Legal Basis for Voting Rights top

In 2013, “The Supreme Court…effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.” Since the beginning of 2017, “lawmakers in 31 states had introduced at least 99 bills that would restrict access to registration and voting.” What more of a sign do you need than this to see the Republicans full throttle effort to undermine our democracy?

Attacks on voting rights and elections typically build on one another as in this example. The Courts 5-to-4 conservative majority might not have existed if the Supreme Court hadn’t blocked the recount of paper ballots in Florida in 2000, allowing George Bush to become President. Or Gore may have won Florida clearly in 2000 if felons were allowed to vote after serving their sentences. And, Bush might not have won Ohio in 2004, if not for the blatantly partisan attacks on democratic voters by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Using these victories, Bush appointed two Supreme Court judges, Alito and Roberts who will vote on gerrymandering in this next court term.

6. Attacking Voter Registration top

Republicans are known for exploiting voter registration to deny access to democratic and minority voters. Certainly, Ken Blackwell’s rejection of registrations not provided on a specific weight of paper in 2004 is legendary.

In 2012 and 2016, Republicans have been caught running voter registration drives which deliberately discard or invalidate legitimate voters registration requests.

The federal government has no uniform voter registration requirement, just guidelines. So, each state is different and many make registration difficult.

37 states do not provide same day voter registration, but institute deadlines ahead of elections.

Mother Jones reports, “Four states—Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, and South Dakota—only let residents register if their Social Security or driver’s license numbers can be matched with entries in a state database. If you register as ‘Bill’ but the database says ‘William,’ or if a data-entry clerk sticks a typo in your name or birth date, tough luck.”

“Starting in 2004, Sheriff Terry Johnson of North Carolina‘s Alamance County used county election rolls to investigate the citizenship of 125 voters with Hispanic-sounding names.” and “In Statesboro, Georgia, citizens challenged the voting status of 900 Georgia Southern University students, claiming they weren’t legal residents of the college town.”

“The Jim Crow-era trick known as ‘caging’ has been revived by 21st-century GOP operatives. Mass mailings go out to low-income areas, and if a letter is returned as undeliverable, the party uses it to challenge that voter’s eligibility. Besides intimidating voters, the challenges create mayhem at polling stations. Caging has been reported in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others.”

7. Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program top

In The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters, Rolling Stone analyzed a partial voter list of the Crosscheck database and determined as designed it “disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races…Like all weapons of vote suppression, Crosscheck is a response to the imaginary menace of mass voter fraud.”

8. The Election Integrity Commission top

President Trump appointed Kansas Secretary of State to run his Orwellian Election Integrity Commission (EIC). In 2016, Kobach is alleged to have deleted online registrations and discarded more than 8,864 provisional ballots.

The EIC made headlines when it asked states to provide detailed information about registered voters. Americans afraid of having their voting history revealed, which is not what is done here, actually began to take themselves off the voter rolls, as 3,000 Colorado voters literally deregistered themselves.

On the same day, the “Department of Justice… sent a letter to 44 states demanding to know state procedures for maintaining voter registration lists under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.” John Light writes, “voting rights advocates worry that the Trump administration’s ultimate goal may be to pressure states to purge their voter rolls under the excuse of eliminating voters who have become inactive or moved away.”

I believe the potential for the EIC is still more insidious.

All the voter data gathered by Kobach’s “commission” will likely be secretly shared with conservative super PACs contracting with Cambridge Analytica and frankly, Russia.

Cambridge Analytics will combine its extensive consumer databases with our voting history to determine our likely voting patterns and party affiliations. It can easily identify frequent liberal voters as well as independent voters who don’t frequently vote.

In The Data That Turned the World Upside Down, Vice reported on the company’s activities in the 2016 elections. “We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals…
In the Miami district of Little Haiti, for instance, Trump’s campaign provided inhabitants with news about the failure of the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake in Haiti, in order to keep them from voting for Hillary Clinton.” And, “sponsored news-feed-style ads in Facebook timelines that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators.”

This past week, it was confirmed that Russia bought Facebook ads to do exactly these types of things. The Mueller investigation of the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may reveal all of this has already happened.

It’s difficult to imagine how many ways a corrupt party, empowered by this level of technology, backed by a Russian dictator with a militarized hacking effort could manipulate us.

Robo calls are one example. In 2016, the Republican party admitted to targeting 36 Oregon counties with robo calls telling voters their registrations were invalid and they wouldn’t be able to vote.

The power of combining unlimited money with big data about Americans and their voting habits is unfathomable.

9. Attacking Voter Rolls top

In “The Voter Purges are Coming,” Vanita Gupta warns “the Trump administration will undertake its enormous voter suppression campaign” in this way. Voters will show up at polls and be denied the right to vote. They may be allowed to cast provisional ballots, but these will likely be discarded.

Recently, we learned that Russian-backed hackers had attempted to break into election systems in 21 states, succeeding in at least Illinois. I’d argue that if the Department of Homeland Security detected hacking attempts in 21 states, the likely breadth and success of these hacks unknown to us is much greater, just as the tarnished Equifax CEO said.

The purpose of those attacks on state election systems was to deregister voters more likely to support Hillary Clinton.

It’s important to view Russian actions together with their propaganda efforts.

10. Voter ID Laws top

republican voter id comic by signe

What’s So Hard About Geting a Good ID? by Signe, Philadelphia Daily News

Ten states have strict Voter ID laws that set aside ballots of voters without some form of identification, including some which require photo IDs. Provisional ballots cast by voters without IDs are thrown out soon after if the voter does not return in some way to prove their identity. This primarily impacts the poor and elderly, often minorities.

The Nation reports, “Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.”

11. Attacking Voter Access top

It’s unbelievable to me that we consider ourselves a democracy while leaving mostly partisan “apparatchik” Secretary of States to run our elections.

Certainly, Katherine Harris, the 2000 Florida Secretary of State, impeded every effort to get an accurate count of the 2000 Florida Presidential race before the courts took over. In 2004, Ken Blackwell, Secretary of State of Ohio, made his efforts proactively to limit democratic turnout.

Large urban democratic districts were granted fewer voting machines than needed, which resulted in long lines and many people who couldn’t afford to stay in line to vote. The very idea that Americans can be made to wait several hours in line to vote in a democracy is outrageous.

rolling stone 2004 election stolen

Image form Archive of Rolling Stone’s “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?”

ElectionLawBlog provides a succinct summary of problems Ohio voters faced. And, the DNC issued a comprehensive report: DNC 2004 Ohio Elections Report (pdf).

Racial minorities generally have to wait longer than whites to vote. Nationally, blacks waited an average of 23.3 minutes to vote, more than double that of whites. In 2012, in “…South Carolina, the 10 precincts with the longest wait times were all in one disproportionately African American county.”

Republicans pull out all the stops to keep people from voting. “Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia…cut down on early voting for 2012…Ohio and Florida specifically ‘banned voting on the Sunday before the election—a day when black churches historically mobilize their constituents.’”

“In 2007, a group called the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance unsuccessfully sued the state of Montana, arguing that polling places should be removed from the Crow Indian Reservation to prevent fraud.”

There’s a reason election day is Tuesday. It’s a workday when many low income, democratic leaning voters can’t take time off to vote.

Neither do we allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. We let them drive, many seem to be able to obtain firearms easily but note determine the leaders who will have the most impact on their futures; climate change may be the best example.

College students are frequently blocked from voting in elections to prevent “liberal” influences on conservative counties. I was blocked in my college home city for this reason in 1992.

It’s common that Americans who move, even between neighborhoods, are denied the right to vote because their registration address hasn’t kept up with their current place of residence.

12. Block Felons from Voting top

In 2016, approximately 6.1 million voting age American adults weren’t allowed to vote because of their criminal history. “That’s about 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting-age population – 1 of every 40 adults … Most of this population is not currently incarcerated. In fact, convicted felons in prison and jail today represent less than 25 percent … More than half of this total disenfranchised population lives in 12 mostly conservative states with the most stringent restrictions.”

In Florida 10.42% of African Americans were disenfranchised because they are felons – the highest percent in the nation.

13. Hacking the Democratic Party top

While we don’t yet have proof that it colluded with the Trump campaign, we do know that Russia hacked the democratic party during the Republican primaries.  Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Republicans sponsored a break-in of the democratic party’s inner circle. President Nixon directed burglars to break into the democrat’s Watergate headquarters in 1972.

Russian hackers retrieved “information, including private correspondence, email databases and, reportedly, opposition research files on Donald Trump” to assist in manipulating the election’s outcome.

14. Blocking Recounts top

When all these questionable systems deliver predictably questionable results, we go to court and Republicans are ready to fight recounts to prevent accurate vote counts.

The Florida 2000 recount is the most well known. It was ultimately blocked by a 5-to-4 majority on the Supreme Court. An example of traditionally states rights Republicans using their federal powers to block Americans from knowing the truth.

In 2016, Trump filed and a U.S. Federal District Court Judge blocked the Pennsylvania recount despite a slim 44,000 vote margin of six million votes cast.

15. Election Dirty Tricks top

America has a long history of dirty tricks in elections. Beyond the structural attacks I’ve reviewed, there are a wide style of less obvious attacks.

Both robo calls and simple flyers be used to mislead voters: “Flyers in Virginia in 2008 told Democrats to vote on the wrong day, while flyers distributed in black neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2004 told residents they couldn’t vote if anyone in their family had been convicted of a crime.”

Trump voters turned up at polls openly carrying firearms and Republican groups frequently volunteer as “Poll Watchers” to further intimidate voters as white supremacist groups planned to do in 2016.

Last year in Douglas County, Oregon, election officials deleted information about a library ballot initiative from their county websites.

voter fraud billboards 2012

Voter Fraud Billboards in Ohio Target Minorities

In Ohio in 2012, 10 billboard ads around Cleveland warn in big block letters and exclamation points that voter fraud is a felony punishable by up to three and a half years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

In 2016, “Someone broke into a ballot drop box in Klamath County [Oregon] and apparently threw the mail-in ballots into a nearby dumpster.”

Of course there’s also bribing and blackmail to manipulate public employees officials to “hack” the vote when no one’s looking. Even poll workers have pee tapes.

16. Propaganda top.

Recently, both Facebook and Twitter have confirmed what seemed obvious for some time now. Russian hackers used both platforms to shape Americans views during the 2016 election and influence their votes. “Facebook says an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. saw at least one of the 3,000 political ads.” You have to see them to understand how sophisticated the Russian operation to undermine our democracy remains.

russian election propaganda

2016 Russian Election Propaganda Via New York Times

Not just social media, but big data analysis and artificial intelligence provide powers previously unimagined at hacking the American psyche and influencing our political actions, including voting.

17. Citizens United top

The 2010 Citizens United decision launched an era of unlimited, untrackable campaign spending which helped drive the propaganda and voter manipulation efforts I’ve described above. Money from foreign powers such as China can be used to manipulate our elections by funneling it through anonymous brokers and super PACs.

As I said, my pet peeve is that the ACLU filed an Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court IN FAVOR OF Citizens United. Most people don’t know this.

I understand the importance of free speech but the ACLU chooses to overlook that unbounded money in elections distorts and destabilizes our democracy. For example, the ACLU’s support of Citizen United helped deliver us President Donald Trump. This is a huge mistake it’s time they correct.

It’s also important to understand that corporate personhood and corporate speech (such as lobbying and election advertising) were bastardizations of the Fourteenth Amendment, meant to assure constitutional rights for freed slaves after the Civil War. In 1886, the Supreme Court decided in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Rail Road to extend the Equal Protection Clause to corporations.

18. Packing Federal District Courts top

Election disputes such as the Pennsylvania recount are often heard first in federal district courts. While he’s been golfing, conservative think tanks helped Trump choose Supreme Court “Justice” Gorsuch and nominate 37 other right wing justices to district courts, 10 of these are successful and 27 are pending.

Slate reports, “Trump has more than 130 judicial vacancies to fill, in large part because Senate Republicans used their authority to obstruct dozens of judicial picks toward the end of Barack Obama’s second term. Trump has now named 16 potential jurists to the federal trial and appellate courts—work that has been farmed out almost entirely to the [conservative] Federalist Society.”

19. Packing the Supreme Court top

Three conservative justices – Alito, Roberts and Gorsuch – were appointed by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote. The Republican Senate’s blockade of Obama appointee Merrick Garland was just the most recent example of their efforts to pack the Supreme Court. The effect of this on elections is overwhelming.

Without Justice Scalia casting the deciding vote against the 2000 Florida recount, Bush may never have become President. And his later appointments of Alito and Roberts will remain clouded by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s extensive efforts to rig the election against Kerry in 2004.

In 2013, the Bush court broke key federal oversight in the voting rights act. This coming term, the Supreme Court will decide the fate of anti-democratic gerrymandering.

20. Amending the Constitution top

With majority control of over 32 state legislatures, Republicans have begun planning for an eventual Constitutional Convention to focus on amendments for “balanced budget[s] and possibly congressional term limits”. 34 states are required to hold a convention. But, as Republicans solidify their control of government, they would likely pass additional laws to limit rightful voters from participating in elections.

In Conclusion

Republican Control of Our Country is Based on Voter Suppression

All of this leads to the realization that the Republican party’s majority leadership is a complete fraud upon America’s elections and our democracy. Much of its power is illegitimate, derived from race-based voter suppression.

Republicans are basically cheating elections and voter access to strengthen their control and build a totalitarian state. The threat is a deadly serious challenge to the values we Americans care most about. We’ve been relatively passive far too long.

The time for us to act is now!

The 2018 election happens to be biased to assist Republicans because of the number of democratic Senate seats open. FiveThirtyEight writes, “Even if Democrats were to win every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats representing places that Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points — a pretty good midterm by historical standards — they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats.”

Republicans could use victories in 2018 and the Census to double down on election attacks through 2020. The likelihood that we’ll see free, fair and verifiable elections in 2018 or 2020 is zero.

Trump’s Atmosphere of Racism and Lies

From the founding of this nation in the Constitution’s Three Fifth’s Clause, elections have been misshaped by slavery and racism. Many of the tactics I’ve described arose from racism in America: caging, Voter ID, disenfranchising felons, reducing voting machines in minority districts, et al. Trump’s father was very likely in the KKK and Trump has fostered an environment of his own racist views to win support of white America.

Additionally, Trump’s fosters an environment of lies, dismissive of truth and facts, and which promotes violence and intimidation. In the background, Republicans have also created a national network of cities with increasingly militarized police and a heavily armed society. The recent police violence in Catalonia is sobering — don’t think it can’t happen here.

I am encouraged that the ACLU has launched People Power to focus on voter rights for the 2018 elections. We should all join in this effort, but there is more to do right now.

As Americans, we must come together with a strategy that demands “one person, one vote” is the law of the land and seize back our democracy.

If you attended the Women’s March or you’re a dedicated activist, please read Moving America Beyond Single-Issue Activism. I will be writing about specific strategies for effective activism soon. Please subscribe above in the sidebar to be notified of updates and follow us on Twitter @possibility_com. Above all, share this piece on social media and via email. Thank you!

If I have missed any election fraud tactics or election vulnerabilities, please post in the comments below and I’ll try to integrate them into the piece.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a writer, activist and technologist residing in the Pacific Northwest. In 2018, he developed the code for and