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A Tempest in a Turnout (Or Ballot Printer Go Brrrrrr)

Nov 5, 2020 | Civics & Politics, Short-form

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Would it shock you to learn that historians sometimes argue? What if I told you they also bicker about election fraud in the US during the past?

I had vowed not to write about the presidential election until we knew the winner. But the “Ballot Printer Go Brrrrr” meme was just too amusing. And since the vote is still sucking up the oxygen in the room, and I have some experience with the topic of fraud…

It’s easy for losers to cry foul. However, consider our bickering historians from above, who can’t seem to figure out if electoral fraud was really a thing in the past.

And then take a look at these recorded shenanigans:

Nevertheless, even this [legislative] publishing practice provides suggestive hints of election tactics across a wide spectrum, as even a cursory examination of decisions reveals: Maine politicians admitted bribing voters but argued that it was not illegal; an Indiana politician admitted and the illegality of that act but argued that the prohibitory law was unconditional; a St. Louis politician admitted registry fraud but argued that there was no proof that the names he copied into the registry were real people and, therefore, no crime had been committed; New York politicians also admitted falsifying registration lists but argued that a technicality in the law’s language exempted them from prosecution in a particular jurisdiction; a Vermonter charged with repeating argued that his first vote was illegal and should not have been accepted, making his second vote acceptable; Pennsylvania election officials convicted for conspiracy to defraud by making false returns argued that the state had to prove they entered into such conspiracy before becoming election officials rather than merely as they falsified the returns; an Ohio politician convicted of adding fraudulent ballots to the ballot box during the count argued that the law prohibited only election officials, not bystanders, from such behavior.

Note that these are fraudsters legally admitting to election fraud. Yet historians will argue whether fraud was strategically used during past eras in the United States.

Granted, these examples were a long time ago. And opinions vary. But clearly, there’s always just as much investment for the winners and everyone else to insist the system is squeaky-clean. It begs credibility to suggest otherwise.

But as a battle-hardened cynic who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, I can assure you of one thing. And that’s how fraud and corruption are often much more prevalent than most people imagine. So much so that a good deal of my interest in any organizational system is looking where it can be gamed.

Because, when you’re talking about people, if a system can be gamed, it will be. And all systems can be gamed, within the spirit and letter of the law or otherwise.

From my personal experience, I’ve seen it almost everywhere. And one of the first things I do when walking into a new organization is to peek under the hood. If I was a hostile employee, where would I game these systems? I often find management are oblivious to any of it, let alone aware of the specifics.

Or at least they pretend to be.

Sometimes they’re really confident that some regulatory process has the situation in check. But often the gaming is actually occurring because of those very (often poorly-designed) regulations. Sometimes a competitor could be leveraging corruption or fraud to their benefit. Or chooses to shine the public light on your gaming of the system to make you seem like a bad person or company.

Apparently, we’re amendable to accepting there’s corruption almost everywhere else in our society. But heaven forbid we take allegations of election fraud seriously in the United States… even if we have historic record of it. Why would we think we’re somehow exempt from some magic point forward?

Anyone who suggests such a thing isn’t someone worth taking seriously. And it’s laughably stupid.

As for the 2020 election, I surmised something to a friend early on Wednesday morning. And that’s how, after getting the public to assume a Biden win, news will break on Friday that Trump has officially stolen the election. Since we know people on the left have legitimized political violence as a form of valid civic engagement, this will result in maximum chaos. And the maximum ability to take the moral high ground.

At least, this is what I’d do if I wanted to be in a good strategic position going into 2024.

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