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What Election Fraud Looks Like

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What Does Election Fraud Look Like?
By Michael Richardson

The face of election fraud has changed over the years keeping pace with technology. Prior to the adoption of paper ballots, election fraud was unnecessary because voter intimidation was sufficient to alter the course of elections.

Then came party-issued paper ballots, but because each party ballot looked different it was still possible to intimidate voters by observing which ballot they carried into the polls. The party-issued ballots also provided an opportunity for election fraud when counterfeit ballots were distributed with alternate candidates listed thereby splitting the vote totals of a particular party.

Finally, government issued ballots came into being and election fraud shifted from outside the polling place to inside. Ballot box stuffing was the new technique and suddenly even dead voters were casting ballots.

Lyndon Johnson owed his admission to the U.S. Senate to ballot box stuffing. In 1948, Johnson was in a tight primary run-off race with his opponent and it looked like he was coming up short when election officials in Alice, Texas announced the discovery of 203 uncounted ballots in Precinct Box 13. Remarkably, 202 of the 203 ballots were for Johnson giving him a winning margin of 87 votes. The "voters" who cast the ballots voted in alphabetical order and were recorded in the register in different ink and handwriting than the other entries. Eleven of the mystery "voters" had courage enough to come forward and say they had not voted. However, Johnson controlled the south Texas courts and the rest is history.

That was then and this now. Old-fashioned ballot boxes have been replaced by electronic voting machines that remove the human element. Instead of stuffed ballot boxes, election fraud in the computer age looks like "undervotes". Self-deleting malicious computer software code can now steal or flip votes and then delete any trace that election fraud occurred.

In 2006, some 18,000 "undervotes" in Sarasota, Florida have likely changed the outcome of a Congressional race and everyone is scrambling to find a reason. Probably the voters themselves will be blamed. The Congressional race was on the same screen as the Governor contest and already "ballot design" is the leading excuse. The idea is that voters were not bright enough to figure out there were two places to vote. Another theory that is more complimentary to the voters is that they decided to boycott the Congressional race because it was such a dirty campaign. That notion might even hold some water if other voters in the district also "undervoted" in large numbers--but they didn't, just those on the paperless machines.

If the election officials in Sarasota cannot succeed in blaming the voters then unknown, but innocent "glitches" in the machines will be the culprit. The idea that a single person might have been able to steal 18,000 votes without detection will not be entertained. However, it should be.

In this modern age of electronic voting machines, election fraud looks like "undervotes". There will never be more proof, no cyber fingerprints, no confessions, just "undervotes" that can never be figured out. Failure to recognize what modern election fraud looks like dooms us to more of it.

The solution is hand counting paper ballots in the open, in full view of the public.

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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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