Republican Party candidate for President, Donald Trump, has claimed that the elections in the USA are or may be rigged. A “rigged” election means there is planned organized fraud. Voting fraud can take place if:
1) ballots are cast by persons not eligible,
2) ballots are not counted,
3) the counting is fraudulent,
4) potential voters are prevented from voting,
5) voting requirements are too restrictive or costly, such as with excessively long lines.
6) malfunction in voting equipment (hanging chads, electrical problems with voting machines).
7) Gerrymandering: voting districts manipulated to maximize the vote of a party.
In the USA, controversial election outcomes date back to the New York gubernatorial election of 1793. The US presidential election of 1876 was disputed.
In 1886 Henry George campaigned for mayor of New York City, where he polled second, more than Republican candidate Theodore Roosevelt. The election was won by the Tammany Hall candidate Abram Hewitt by what many of George's supporters believed was fraud. (source)
Voting fraud has been alleged in the 1960 US presidential election, especially in Chicago. But according to an article in Slate, “Completed Dec. 9, the recount of 863 precincts showed that the original tally had undercounted Nixon's ... votes, but only by 943, far from the 4,500 needed to alter the results.” However, “some fraud clearly occurred in Cook County. At least three people were sent to jail for election-related crimes.” (source)
In the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry, there were claims of voter fraud for the victory by Bush (source). But an article in Salon shows that some of the claims are lacking in evidence (source).
The 2000 election vote for Bush v. Gore is controversial, but a study by CNN concludes that “Taken as a whole, the recount studies show Bush would have most likely won the Florida statewide hand recount of all undervotes. Undervotes are ballots that did not register a vote in the presidential race.” However, “Gore likely would have won a statewide recount of all undervotes and overvotes, which are ballots that included multiple votes for president and were thus not counted at all.” (source).
In the USA, systemic nation-wide voter fraud is unlikely because of the decentralized voting. But local voting fraud is clearly possible, especially since there is little assurance that the voter registrations are accurate and all votes are properly counted. Voting can be manipulated by not having enough locations, such as in low-income areas, as long lines discourage voting. If an ID is required, then the government should make it easy to obtain one. Voting machines that lack paper back-ups can make it impossible to verify that the programming is accurate.
The potential for voter fraud is inherent in mass voting. Outside the US there have been many cases of ballot fraud. A long list of controversial elections is found here.
Mass democracy can become a sham when there is voting, but the candidacy and participation are limited. There have been dictators who have used sham elections for the pretext of getting political legitimacy, with absurd results of nearly 100% in favor.
The ultimate remedy is to replace mass democracy with voting that only takes place in neighborhood cells or groups small enough so that the counting of paper ballots can be witnessed. Small-group democracy, or cellular democracy, would best limit the voting to electing a neighborhood council, rather than the dozens of propositions and candidates a typical American voter is confronted with.
Thomas Jefferson called this system “Ward republic.” “The concept was inspired by the traditional practice in England and other feudal European countries to organize people below the county level into what were called ‘hundreds’, ... a geographic group of a few hundred individuals and their families.” (source)
So long as we suffer from mass democracy, significant voter fraud will remain a possibility, along with demagogs, special-interest influence, and corruption.
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FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.
Foldvary is the author of The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.
Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.