Does election fraud happen on a coordinated, wide-scale basis or “at the local level from time to time” or not at all?
Contrary to the protestations of some in the media and pundit class, election fraud does occur. The concerns are, how pervasive is it? Does it change election outcomes? And should we be concerned for the upcoming General Election on Nov. 3?
In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the arrest of four people, including a county commissioner, for illegal vote harvesting on Sept. 24. The elected official charged in the scheme won his primary election by five votes in 2018 after his opponent held a 19% lead on election night. The indictments total 123 felony charges for various corrupt election practices. The net result was someone won a race for an important local office—by cheating.
As Attorney General Paxton noted in a statement, “It is an unfortunate reality that elections can be stolen outright by mail ballot fraud… Mail ballots are vulnerable to diversion, coercion, and influence by organized vote harvesting schemes.”
The same day Texas law enforcement authorities were arresting four people for cheating to win an election, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress that there is no systemic and wide-scale voter fraud in America, but rather some fraud “…at the local level from time to time.” This prompted a response from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on CBS This Morning who said, “With all due respect to Director Wray, he has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI, let along figuring out whether there’s any kind of voter fraud.”
Meadows, a former member of Congress, is a veteran of four winning campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. Wray, a successful lawyer and experienced Justice Department prosecutor, has no apparent experience in elective politics.
Meanwhile, President Trump recently asserted that the “The ballots are out of control.”
So, who is right?
The fact is that many aspects of our election process can be gamed by dishonest players. However, because our elections are run at the county level across the nation, cheating, even systemic cheating, is done at the local level.
This was seen in Texas in 2018 during what became the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and then-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Texas election law limits the use of mail-in ballots. People 65 and older can request to vote by mail. But those under the age of 65 must either vote absentee, meaning the ballot will be mailed to a location out of the voter’s home county, or, failing that, the voter must claim a disability making it difficult or dangerous to vote in person (a tiny number of otherwise eligible voters can vote from jail).
Statewide, there were dozens of hotly contested races. Overall, 6.2% of Texas voters in 2018 returned their ballots by mail, up from 1.8% in 2010. The share of votes by those under age 65 more than tripled from 0.2% of the votes in 2010 to 0.7% in 2018. Moreover, something very interesting happened to the average age of those under 65 who voted by mail: it plummeted from 42 years on average in 2016—the statistical midpoint between age 18 and age 64—to 36 years. This meant a lot of voters were checking the “disability” box in 2018 so as to vote by mail, with most likely not having any disability preventing them from going to the polls in person.
Returning to the Texas indictments filed yesterday, Attorney General Paxton’s office claims that the illegal ballot harvesters focused on “young, able-bodied” voters, typically checking the “disability” box for the voters without their consent so as to apply for a mail-in ballot. This allowed the ballot harvesters to follow up with the voters and secure their ballots, guaranteeing a “proper” vote and obliterating the concept of a secret ballot in the process.
Data from the 2018 election in Texas suggests that this activity—fraudulently applying for mail-in ballots by checking the “disability” box—was more acute in counties with highly competitive races.
In 2020 Texas is seeing a repeat of 2018—with the use of mail-in ballots likely to greatly exceed 2018’s record use.
Major candidates of both parties have been caught urging voters to check the “disability” box to vote from home, whether they are eligible to or not in violation of Texas law. The excuse proffered is COVID-19.
County election officials—at least those from the urban centers controlled by Democrats—have consistently pushed for an all-mail election, contrary to Texas law. This has resulted in a flurry of lawsuits and rulings by both state and federal courts that have reaffirmed Texas law and stated that fear of contracting COVID-19 is not a disability under Texas law.
Democrats have contended that the effort to restrict the use of mail-in ballots to conform with the law amounts to “voter suppression.”
So, why the push for mail-in ballots?
The simple reason is that mail-in ballots are as close to a sure thing as a politician can get. It allows campaign workers to “help,” harangue, or harass voters into voting the “correct” way and, if not, to substitute the “correct” ballot for the voter’s own—or toss away an “incorrect” ballot.
The more complicated 2020 rationale is to increase the level of chaos in the General Election.
Already, according to the Washington Post some 500,000 mail-in ballots have been rejected in 23 states during the primary election. Prior to the pandemic, Texas was on track to see a record amount of mail-in balloting—likely up to 8% of the vote, with about 7/8ths of that coming from eligible voters 65 and older.
COVID-19 is likely to supercharge the use of mail-in votes, with campaigns, independent organizations, and even local officials promoting the use of mail-in balloting broadly and in violation of state law and court orders.
Should President Trump win Texas on Election Night by 3.6%, (the current average of polls on RealClearPolitics), and the amount of uncounted mail-in ballots exceeds the Election Night margin, Democrats will demand that the state not be “called” for Trump. The media will hesitate and the outcome will then be litigated.
The post-election battle in Florida in 2000 may be replayed in Texas and other states, throwing the national election into a degree of turmoil not seen since 1876.