Electoral integrity in the United States

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This essay is on Wikiversity to encourage a wide discussion of the issues it raises moderated by the Wikimedia rules that invite contributors to “be bold but not reckless,” contributing revisions written from a neutral point of view, citing credible sources -- and raising other questions and concerns on the associated '“Discuss”' page.

Electoral integrity refers to international standards and global norms governing the appropriate conduct of elections,” according to a Wikipedia article by that title and a source it cites.[1] Assessing electoral integrity has proved difficult for a variety of reasons.

Research[edit | edit source]

Quantifying electoral integrity is not easy. The “Electoral integrity project” at Harvard University and the University of Sydney published a “Perceptions of Electoral Integrity dataset” whose validity was questioned, because "Democracy in New York (which scored a 61) and Virginia (60) is supposedly more imperiled than in Rwanda (64), though Rwanda is controlled by an autocrat. The worst-performing state [in the US], Arizona (53), is outranked by Kuwait (55), Ivory Coast (59) and Kyrgyzstan (54)."[2]

Propaganda[edit | edit source]

Beyond questions of research methodology, however, serious research suggests that there has been substantial propaganda discussing various types of voter fraud, making rare exceptions seem routine. This seems to have been done to justify increasing restrictions on the right to vote.

The rationale behind this was expressed by Republican Christian Conservative strategist Paul Weyrich in a talk in a 1980 strategy conference: “I don't want everybody to vote. [O]ur leverage in the elections ... goes up as the voting populace goes down.”[3]

Starting in 1981 Democratic party organizations repeatedly hauled Republican party organizations into court for voter caging and other forms of voter suppression. Democrats won a series of consent decrees in which Republicans promised not to do it. Except they continued. On 2018-01-08 the US District Court for the District of New Jersey decided that “the DNC did not prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, a violation of the [1982] Consent Decree before December 1, 2017”.[4]

Increase in political polarization[edit | edit source]

Meanwhile, US society and politicians have become less polarized racially but more polarized politically, and the courts have become more reluctant to intervene in electoral practices, according to Harvard Law Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos. He wrote, “the half-century in which federal courts have decided redistricting cases can be divided into two periods: one lasting from the 1960s to the 1980s, in which voters and politicians were both comparatively nonpartisan; and another reaching from the 1990s to the present day, which amounts to perhaps the most hyperpartisan era in our country’s history.”[5]

This increase in partisanship has coincided with other changes, which may explain this phenomenon:

Figure 9. A graph of the incarceration rate under state and federal jurisdiction per 100,000 population 1925–2008 (omits local jail inmates). The male incarceration rate (top line) is roughly 15 times the female rate (bottom line).
This graph shows the income of the given percentiles plus the average from 1947 to 2010 in 2010 dollars. The 2 columns of numbers in the right margin are the cumulative growth 1970-2010 and the annual growth rate over that period. The vertical scale is logarithmic, which makes constant percentage growth appear as a straight line. From 1947 to 1970, all percentiles grew at essentially the same rate; the straight lines for the different percentiles for those years all have the same slope. Since 1970, there has been substantial divergence, with different percentiles of the income distribution growing at different rates. The gap between the mean and the median American family income is $39,000 per year (just over $100 per day): If the economic growth during this period had been broadly shared as it was from 1947 to 1970, the median household income would have been $39,000 per year higher than it was in 2010.[6] The 99th, 99.9th, and 99.99th percentiles were computed from US Internal Revenue Service data by Piketty and Saez.[7]
  1. Between 1975 and 2000, the mainstream commercial broadcasters fired nearly all their investigative journalists and replaced them with the "police blotter". People thought that crime was out of control, when there had been no substantive change in crime. And the public voted in a generation of politicians on a platform to "get though on crime". This reduction in investigative journalism meant that the public received less honest information than before, especially about what the government was doing to reward the people who made major contributions to political campaigns. That, in turn drove a five-fold increase in incarcerations. It also contributed to increases in income inequality that began around 1970 and continue to the present, presumably because voters are less well informed and therefore less able to defend their interests in the political arena.
  2. In 1987 the US Federal Communications Commission eliminated the fairness doctrine , which had required the holders of broadcast licenses to "present controversial issues of public importance" in a way that was "honest, equitable and balanced". Its repeal provided an opportunity for a kind of partisan political programming with commercial appeal that had not previously existed.
  3. Facebook and other “antisocial media” have so much information on people's beliefs that it is profitable to target ads to groups as small as 20. Vaidhyanathan (2018) Antisocial Media[8] claims that Facebook is “undermining democracy everywhere.” They have “become complicit in the rise of nationalists such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte, and ISIS”.[9] “[S]mall, cheap advertisements [appear on] platforms like Facebook and Instagram that disappear after a day”.[10] “Facebook is explicitly engineered to promote items that generate strong reactions.”[11] If you want to motivate someone via Facebook to do something, first “choose the most extreme, polarizing message and image. Extremism will generate ... 'engagements.' This design feature ... ensures that the most inflammatory material will travel the farthest and the fastest.[12] If, for example, you mention “illegal aliens” on Facebook, you will likely get ads telling you about how terrible they are. And you will likely NOT see posts mentioning research saying that sanctuary cities are on average safer and have higher median incomes than non-sanctuary cities.[13] If, conversely, you discuss problems that “undocumented” people have, you will NOT likely see posts about “illegal aliens.”

For more on how the media contribute to this partisan divide, see “Confirmation bias and conflict”.

Interviews[edit | edit source]

Three videos with transcripts of interviews relating to electoral integrity are as follows:

  1. Five categories of voter suppression.
  2. Voter suppression and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
  3. Election integrity, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, and the Kansas ACLU.

Excerpts from these three interviews were broadcasted on 90.1 FM, KKFI.org, Kansas City Community Radio, on 2020-08-13.[14] A half-hour of excerpts from those interviews is scheduled to be broadcasted in late September on Sprouts: Radio from the Grassroots.[15]

Voter fraud database[edit | edit source]

The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank, maintains an “Election Fraud Database [that] presents a sampling of recent proven instances of election fraud from across the country. This database is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list. ... It is intended to demonstrate the vulnerabilities in the election system and the many ways in which fraud is committed.” As of 2020-08-30 this databases included 1,296 proven instances of voter fraud including 1,119 criminal convictions.[16] That sounds line a big number, unless you consider that it includes cases from the entire US dating back to 1982.[17] These 1,296 proven instances included 19 prosecutions in Oregon in the 20 years since Oregon became “the first state in the United States to conduct its elections exclusively by mail.” Similarly, FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, insisted, 'There is no evidence to back up Trump’s blanket claim that “mailed ballots are corrupt.”'[18]

Hans von Spakovsky, who manages the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative, discussed, “The risks of mail-in voting”, citing the recent case in Patterson, New Jersey, where, “Four Paterson residents have already been charged with criminal election fraud,” and “election officials apparently rejected 1 in 5 ballots”.[19] A different view of that Patterson, New Jersey, incident was offered in a The Washington Post article on “What alleged voter fraud in Paterson, N.J., tells us about November — and what it doesn’t”. This article says that voter fraud is crudely similar to auto theft, which is not "at a scale in which the system of auto ownership is imperiled.”[20]

Spakovsky testified as an expert witness in Fish v. Kobach, in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the League of Women Voters sued then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobachon behalf of Steven Wayne Fish and others whose attempts to register to vote had been rejected, because of a Documentary Proof of Citizenship (DPOC) requirement of the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act. This "SAFE" act was enacted in 2011[21] and took effect in 2013.[22] Among other things, Spakovsky testified that “a U.S. GAO study ... 'found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration roles over a two-year period in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens.' On cross-examination, however, he acknowledged that he omitted the following facts: the GAO study contained information on a total of 8 district courts; 4 of the 8 reported that there was not a single non-citizen who had been called for jury duty; and the 3 remaining district courts reported that less than 1% of those called for jury duty from voter rolls were noncitizens.” Julie Robinson, the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, who had been appointed to the bench by US President George W. Bush, a Republican, concluded that "his report misleadingly described the only district court with the highest percentage of people reporting that they were noncitizens, while omitting mention of the 7 other courts described in the GAO report, including 4 that had no incidents of noncitizens on the rolls.[23] ... [Mr. von Spakovsky's] clear agenda and misleading statements ... render his opinions unpersuasive. In contrast, Plaintiffs offered Dr. Lorraine Minnite, an objective expert witness, who provided compelling testimony about Defendant's claims of noncitizen registration. ... Her published research on the topic spans over a decade and includes her full-length, peer reviewed book, The Myth of Voter Fraud, for which Dr. Minnite has received grants and professional distinctions, and numerous articles and chapters in edited volumes. ... Although she admits that noncitizen registration and voting does at times occur, Dr. Minnite testified that there is no empirical evidence to support Defendant's claims in this case that noncitizen registration and voting in Kansas are largescale problems. ... [M]any of these cases reflect isolated incidents of avoidable administrative errors ... and / or misunderstanding on the part of applicants. ... For example, ... 400 individuals [in the Kansas Election Voter Information System (ELVIS)] have birth dates after their date of registration, indicating they registered to vote before they were born."[24] Judge Robinson noted that Mr. Kobach was able to document 39 cases of noncitizens registering to vote, and to protect the public from that problem, he rejected 12.4 percent of new voter registration applications while his Documentary Proof of Citizenship law was in effect, disenfranchising over 31,000 citizens.

Bury me in Chicago, so I can remain politically active[edit | edit source]

There were claims of voter fraud after the 1960 United States presidential election. However, if the fraud had been limited only to Illinois, it would not have changed the election, because Kennedy got 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219, which means that Kennedy would still have still won with 276 electoral votes if Nixon had won Illinois' 27 electoral votes.

Still, there have been reports of dead people voting in numerous places, not just Chicago. Various people have joked, “bury me in _______, because I want to remain politically active.”[25]

Summary[edit | edit source]

Various kinds of electoral fraud have almost certainly been problems in the past in the US and even in other countries today. However, the available evidence suggests that in recent decades in the US, the concerns about it expressed by President Trump and his supporters vastly overstates its magnitude.

Meanwhile, it's almost certain that each of Mac Heller's Five categories of voter suppression have a much bigger impact on election results than individual voter fraud -- almost 1,000 citizens disenfrancized by the Kansas Documentary Proof of Citizenship requirement for each noncitizen registered to vote. Kobach said it was the tip of an iceberg. Judge Robinson said it was an icicle.[26]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Julie A. Robinson (18 June 2018), Findings of fact and conclusions of law in Fish v. Kobach (PDF), Wikidata Q97940156.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. accessed 2020-08-28. It cites Norris, Pippa (2014-06-30). Why Electoral Integrity Matters. ISBN 9781107684706. https://books.google.de/books?id=f-_CAwAAQBAJ. .
  2. "North Carolina's Iron Curtain". Wall Street Journal. 30 December 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  3. Paul Weyrich (1980), I don't want everybody to vote, Wikidata Q98749513.
  4. Vann R. Newkirk II (9 January 2018), "The Republican Party Emerges From Decades of Court Supervision", The Atlantic, ISSN 1072-7825, Wikidata Q98754715
  5. "The Dance of Partisanship and Districting" (PDF), Harvard Law and Policy Review, 13: 507–537, 2019, ISSN 1935-2077, Wikidata Q98755041.
  6. Table F-1. Income Limits for Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of Families, Wikidata Q98791666 (all races): 1947-2010. Median computed as the geometric mean of the 20th and 40th percentiles.
  7. Piketty, Thomas; Saez, Emmanuel. Atkinson, A. B.; Piketty, Thomas (eds.). "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-2002". Retrieved 2012-02-08. Unknown parameter |booktitle= ignored (help)
  8. Siva Vaidhyanathan (12 June 2018), Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-084118-8, OL 29796727M, Wikidata Q56027099, esp. p. 215 and the section on "How Facebook helped make Trump president" in chapter 6, more generally.
  9. p. 8.
  10. p. 195-196 of 276 and chapter 6. "The Politics Machine" and its section on "The Damage" more generally
  11. p. 11.
  12. p. 11.
  13. Tom K. Wong (26 January 2017), The Effects of Sanctuary Policies on Crime and the Economy, Center for American Progress, Wikidata Q98775875. Other studies have found no effect. The research does NOT support the claims by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a July 2017 speech when he claimed that [a 2017 study in the journal Urban Affairs Review] showed that sanctuary cities were more prone to crime than cities without sanctuary policies”: Credible publications have shown either that sanctuary cities have lower crime and higher median incomes, consistent with Wong's results, or no statistically significant differences.
  14. Election integrity: Voter fraud, voter suppression, gerrymandering, 13 August 2020, Wikidata Q98781446.
  15. Sprouts: Radio From the Grassroots, Pacifica Radio, Wikidata Q98781702.
  16. A Sampling of Recent Election Fraud Cases from Across the United States, Wikidata Q98388911.
  17. Obtained by clicking “Last” at [ https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud/search https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud/search] on 2020-08-30.
  18. Robert Farley (10 April 2020), "Trump's Latest Voter Fraud Misinformation", FactCheck.org, Wikidata Q98786046.
  19. Hans von Spakovsky (3 August 2020), The risks of mail-in voting, The Heritage Foundation, Wikidata Q98786055.
  20. Philip Bump (29 June 2020), "What alleged voter fraud in Paterson, N.J., tells us about November — and what it doesn't", The Washington Post, ISSN 0190-8286, Wikidata Q98786065.
  21. Kobach, Kris W. (2011-04-18), Kansas Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act Signed by Governor (PDF), Kansas Secretary of State, retrieved 2018-03-18, April 18, 2011. Today Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act into law. ... Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach [said,] “No other state in the union does as much to secure the integrity of the voting process.” Kobach unveiled HB 2067 (the SAFE Act) ... . While Republicans voted almost unanimously for the SAFE Act, 75% of Senate Democrats and 70% of House Democrats also voted for the SAFE Act. The core provisions of the SAFE Act are these: (1) newly-registered Kansas voters must prove U.S. citizenship when registering to vote; (2) voters must show photographic identification when casting a vote in person; and (3) voters must have their signature verified and provide a full Kansas driver’s license or non-driver ID number when voting by mail.
  22. Secure and Fair Elections (S.A.F.E.) Act Regulations (PDF), Kansas Secretary of State, 2012-02-24, retrieved 2018-03-18, Effective Feb. 24, 2012 (except K.A.R. 7-23-14 effective Jan. 1, 2013); ... K.A.R. 7-23-14. Assessing documents submitted as evidence of United States citizenship.
  23. A careful researcher may wish to see the exact passage summarized in Mr. von Spakovsky's testimony and Judge Robinson's evaluation thereof. The relevant passage in the GAO report can be found on pp. 42-43 (47-48 of 71 in the pdf) of William O. Jenkins, Jr. (June 2005), ELECTIONS: Additional Data Could Help State and Local Elections Officials Maintain Accurate Voter Registration Lists (PDF), Wikidata Q97581324: "[F]ederal jury administrators in eight U.S. district courts provided either exact numbers or estimates [of the number of non-citizens among people called for jury duty]. Of the eight district courts, four federal jury administrators said no one had been disqualified from jury service because they were not U.S. citizens. In the other four district courts:
    • a federal jury administrator in one U.S. district court estimated that 1 to 3 percent of the people out of a jury pool of 30,000 over 2 years (about 300 to 900 people) said they were not U.S. citizens;
    • a federal jury administrator in a second U.S. district court estimated that less than 1 percent of the people out of a jury pool of 35,000 names each month (less than 350 people) said they were not U.S. citizens;
    • a federal jury administrator in a third U.S. district court estimated that about 150 people out of a jury pool of 95,000 names over 2 years said they were not U.S. citizens [less than 0.2 percent]; and
    • a federal jury administrator in a fourth U.S. district court estimated that annually about 5 people typically claimed non-citizenship in a jury pool of about 50,000 individuals [0.01 percent].
  24. Robinson (2018-06-28, pp. 52-58)
  25. Barry Popik (5 April 2012), When I die, bury me in Chicago because I want to remain politically active, The Big Apple, Wikidata Q98786173.
  26. Robinson (2018, p. 89).