It goes without saying that the outcomes of the nine Senate recall elections scheduled in Wisconsin will be of intense interest to most of the UW-Madison community. Forecasting the outcome of elections weeks in advance is always a risky business; nevertheless, we offer the following bold prediction:
In at least some cases, the candidate receiving the lesser of the actual votes cast -- perhaps, in fact, the candidate you passionately opposed -- will be declared the official victor.
Chances are, you either think we are nuts or you are already upset with the dismal state of elections in Wisconsin, if not the country. Either way, we hope this article will change your view of both (a) the security of the elections and (b) the ability of ordinary citizens like you to improve that security.
Here's a second prediction which gets to the heart of the real problem:
No one -- not the Government Accountability Board, not the media, not any elected official, and most certainly not you -- has the slightest hope of ever disproving our first prediction in light of current election procedures and practices.
While our first prediction is open to debate, the second is rock solid. Why? Because our appallingly compromised election procedures in this state are simply incapable of detecting or preventing election fraud, due to a combination of wholly inadequate statutory safeguards and criminally negligent enforcement.
(Note by the way, that we are not talking about voter fraud, which was ostensibly the reason behind the recently enacted voter ID law. Both the prevalence and practical significance of voter fraud is a discredited myth. If you want your candidate to win an election dishonestly, it is far easier and more effective to rig the counting of the ballots on the electronic voting machines. We find it interesting and significant that those in the Wisconsin Legislature who rammed through the voter ID law have so little to say about the far greater threat of election fraud. )
Election fraud is not just a hypothetical concern. In addition to strong circumstantial evidence in countless other cases, instances of clear fraud have been uncovered that led to actual indictments in CuyahogaCounty, Ohio, and Clay County, Kentucky. Echoes of Cuyahoga can be heard (by those inclined to hear them) in the recent Waukesha recount.
Experts on election integrity have been sounding two main alarms for at least ten years: (1) it's far too easy to rig elections in ways that are difficult to detect, and (2) there is considerable circumstantial evidence that it is regularly occurring.
Consider this: Approximately 1.48 million votes were cast in the Prosser v. Kloppenburg election. The final published difference between them was a mere 7,004 votes, so flipping only 3,502 of them could have given the election back to Kloppenburg. That's only a single vote flipped (or, alternatively, two Prosser votes simply discarded) per 422 cast!
Now consider this: Electronic voting machines use proprietary software to tabulate votes. Not even election officials are allowed to view or test the integrity of the software or the memory cards. The counting of votes simply cannot be observed or verified by the voting public or the election officials. It is impossible to know whether it is being done correctly and honestly. We are being told to take it on faith that the voting machine vendors, and those who have access to the machines, are honest. This is not merely risky, it is fundamentally antithetical to democracy.
The Emmy-nominated documentary Hacking Democracy (free viewing online, 81 min.) presents a shocking demonstration of how easily electronic votes can be hacked, and it also offers troubling evidence that election rigging is actually occurring. Even if you don't read beyond this point, please view Hacking Democracy and urge family, friends, and acquaintances to watch it as well. You will never view our elections or electronic voting machines the same way again.
We're accustomed to hearing the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" applied to suspects being tried for crimes, and that's as it should be. But we in the United States, more so than in many other developed countries, inappropriately apply the same standard of evidence to our elections. Our naive assumption is that unless unambiguous evidence of fraud or gross error is actually uncovered, it most likely didn't occur. If you can't see it, it must not exist. This is what those who corrupt the election process count on.
Election fraud, like any crime, requires both motive and opportunity. And ample motive can already be found on either side of the current ideological divide in our country.
Imagine the zealous conservative who sincerely believes that abortion is murder and that liberal politicians are therefore condoning murder on a large scale. Or imagine the zealous liberal who sincerely believes that conservative policies will condemn the earth to perish, and soon, from runaway greenhouse warming. Either of these individuals might be persuaded that it's morally justified and urgently necessary to commit election fraud in defense of humankind.
Would anyone who cares about honest elections deliberately put either person in charge of actually overseeing and enforcing election procedures? But that's exactly what we do with our partisan elections for county clerks!