A month after the US Election, against a backdrop of increasing stories of electoral fraud, presidential incumbent Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat in the race for the White House. Conversely, the mainstream media, the big social media platforms and, of course, the Democrats have declared Joe Biden as the undisputed winner and president-elect. All of this has been a massive surprise to Trump supporters, who had been expecting a landslide win for their candidate. Legal teams supporting Donald Trump are currently serving lawsuits against relevant authorities in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The attitude of the mainstream media can be summed up as ‘move on people, nothing to see here’ – they ignore the reports of electoral fraud and, instead, focus on championing Joe Biden as the president-elect and run stories on the likely make up of the new administration. However, the outcome of the election is decided by the Electoral College which meets on 14 December 2020; calling the election for Biden seems premature if significant legal challenges are being fought in the interim. The messages of congratulations from world leaders seem inappropriate at this stage, and have the potential to cause diplomatic hiccups further down the line. However, it is significant that President Putin has not yet officially recognised Joe Biden as the winner. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that his government will delay any congratulations until the US election results are finalised.
Why should electoral fraud associated with Mail-In voting be considered to be of major significance in this election? The view has always prevailed that, although some electoral fraud will always occur, the levels at which it occurs are probably unlikely to shift the outcome of an election. However, for the first time in history – certainly within the United States of America – a substantial number of voters (possibly a majority) cast their vote using the Mail-In (postal voting) system due to the Covid crisis.
Many are of the opinion that Mail-In voting systems are highly susceptible to fraudulent activity. Outside of the precincts of a polling station, a voter may be coerced to vote in a certain way and, once a ballot is sealed in an envelope and sent on its way by post, the ballot could be intercepted, thrown away, altered, or duplicated. According to the bipartisan 2005 report of the Commission of Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III concluded that “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud”. Similar concerns have been raised by Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Brexit Party. After the Peterborough by-election of 2019, where the Brexit Party lost by just 683 votes to the Labour Party, Farage remarked that the postal voting system was ‘wide open to corruption’. The remark was made against the backdrop of controversy over a party activist on the Labour team who had previously been convicted years earlier of a postal vote scam.
Also, there is the issue of the use of electronic voting machines, where ballots are scanned (or entered into the system via the use of touch screen systems) for subsequent processing by computer voting software. In the United States, for the last couple of decades, the majority of voter counting is performed electronically by machine. With regards to the use of electoral voting machines, many have voiced concerns with regard to ballot integrity. For instance, suitably motivated actors could hack into the machine to either modify software algorithms or change the contents of the vote tabulations database. The use of voting machine Internet connections could provide an easy back door for potential foreign interference in vote tabulation processes. Against such a background, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order in 2018 seeking to prevent and punish foreign interference in US elections.
The official vote tallies reported by the swing state authorities certainly do not appear to correlate with the expectations of Trump supporters on the ground. For example, many attest to the tens of thousands of people attending Trump rallies as opposed to the sparsely attended rallies organised by the Biden team. There has been wide scale reporting of unexpectedly large ballot drops deposited at polling stations in the early hours of the morning (long after the polling booths closed) and of Mail-In sealed envelopes not signed on the outside which had subsequently been accepted as legitimate. With regard to electoral voting machines, there are reports of computer ‘glitches’ that have ‘flipped’ substantial numbers of votes from Trump to Biden. Many witnessed television news feeds where votes for Biden suddenly went dramatically North with statistically unexpected increases in the voting tally profile at certain points in the timeline. Mathematicians and statisticians (both amateur and professional) have analysed voting figures provided by state authorities and have found evidence of ‘smoking guns’ for suspicious activity. As an example, the application of Benford’s Law (a tool for picking up tell-tale signs of fraud – under applicable circumstances – and used commonly by accountants) indicates that Trump voting data follows the Benford ‘curve’ (as expected) whereas Biden data does not.
Since Rudy Guilliani, former mayor of New York, headed up Trump’s legal team, hundreds of affidavits have been signed by state employees alleging fraudulent activity within polling precincts. The Chairman of The Federal Electoral Commission, Trey Trainor, has since remarked that reports of fraud in key battleground states are credible. Political commentator Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary to the Treasury under president Ronald Reagan and former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal believes that the election was stolen. There are reports that servers used by Dominion Voting Systems have been seized by US Special Forces (although net yet confirmed by mainstream media). Although supplying many of the States with electronic voting machines, Dominion is headquartered in Canada and their servers are located in Frankfurt, Germany. If the report is true, the seizure of their servers has probably been justified under the provisions of the 2018 Executive Order.
Whether small or large scale, suspected fraud should always be investigated thoroughly – even small-scale fraud can flip electoral outcomes. It is tempting to conclude, given the potential for fraud, that it is best to revert back to in-person, non digital voting systems with postal voting kept to the absolute minimum. Indeed, many nations have decided to maintain their traditional in-person systems precisely because of such concerns. However, as global society increasingly embraces digital technology in so many areas of life, it does not make sense to do so. Rather, we should strive to make digital voting systems tamper-proof. Is this possible? Remarkably, there is a solution and it exists within the ecosystem of crypto-currencies – of which Bitcoin is a prime example. The technology underwriting Bitcoin is Blockchain. It is a technology that provides a highly encrypted, distributed ledger of ‘transactions’ which are virtually impossible to hack. Transactions involve the transfer of tokens (coins) from one person to another. In the case of voting, the token would be a single vote – to be transferred from a voter to a candidate. Also, a practice for ensuring increased integrity would be to utilise open-source software – much like how Linux is developed and distributed. A major drawback of current electronic voting systems is that they are proprietary-based. This means that software is private to the company developing and providing the software, with little scope for third parties to check its contents.
Implementation of these steps would well and truly provide voting systems worthy of the twenty-first century. The public deserve voting systems that they can trust. Systems that compromise the outcome of voter intentions are a threat to our democratic way of life.