What I Learned About Election Security
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
This post was originally published on my old blog in November 2020 and has been republished here for posterity.
Spoiler alert: It would be really hard to rig and election to this extent and there's no evidence of it anyway.
As I have a tendency to do...I fell down a rabbit hole of research late last night.
I’ll admit I’m stressed out and disheartened this week. I don’t understand how our country has sunk to the point of our president and countless supporters of his asserting without any evidence that the election is rigged against him simply because he’s losing. I mean, we predicted the tabulation process would play out this way. Is it any wonder his lead has shrunk as mail-in ballots have been counted when he himself discouraged voters from voting that way and Democrats pushed mail-in ballots as a pandemic precaution?
But regardless of that, I don’t want to let my emotions or my opinion override me. The reality is there remains a huge portion of our population that believes (or claims to believe) Biden is cheating. While I don’t believe that myself, I still want to have faith in the validity of this election based on facts, not simply because I want to believe it.
Furthermore, people’s concerns deserve to be addressed, not dismissed as stupid or partisan.
The first question I wanted to ask myself was, hypothetically, HOW a campaign would steal an election if it wanted to. Something like this would require a coordinated effort on the part of polling workers and board of election officials from hundreds of locations across multiple states (many of which are run by Republicans), all while election observers are practicing their legal right to check in on them and watch out for any corruption or cheating, and that these groups are supported by judges across those multiple states...I’m not an expert at carrying out government overthrows, but I don’t see any possible way of pulling this off.
As far as election transparency laws go, it’s a little complicated because it varies from state to state. Verified Voting does a thorough job of breaking down state audit laws in its database.
The important aspect to consider is that there exists a real mix of election observers. I didn’t even know about some of these until I did my research. There’s the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is a bipartisan mix of Republicans and Democrats, plus independent organizations and even international bodies. Any candidate can even send members of their campaign team to watch. All of these observers ensure that the process is conducted smoothly and with integrity.
Additionally, the United States works with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international collaboration of 57 countries that sends election observers to support a sound and safe process. This is the ninth election the OSCE has helped with, comprising general elections and midterms where Democrats and Republicans won in equal measure.
On Tuesday, its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights reported that despite challenges we all saw with the pandemic, the election was well managed and that the right to vote—the fundamental principle of democracy—was protected. It states, “Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harm public trust in democratic institutions.”
You also have to remember that the tallying process is not happening behind closed doors. Some locations, representing heavily Republican and Democratic electorates alike, are live-streaming it (you can find links to the livestreams here).
And as I previously mentioned (but it bears repeating), candidates are allowed to send members of their campaign to watch. This was something a Pennsylvania just upheld for the Trump campaign, per ABC News. Trump considered this a win, and I candidly agree—anything that allows transparency to protect our democratic process is a win for the American people. But despite this “win,” Trump’s margin in Pennsylvania has continued to dwindle (Biden is leading as of this morning), which should be indicative to all of us that Biden’s lead is legitimate.
Many of these disputes, when brought before the court, are turning out to be baseless claims with no evidence and they’re being struck down by nonpartisan judges representing jurisdictions across the country—it’s not as if these are Democratic officials from one single area that are dismissing these cases.
A few examples I’ve read about:
A Republican poll watcher claimed about 50 ballots arrived late to a voting location near Savannah, but the poll watcher offered no evidence that the ballots had arrived late and county election officials testified they arrived on time.
Similarly, in Arizona, the Trump campaign is claiming ballots were rejected because they were filled out with Sharpie markers, even though poll workers state these are the preferred markers for filling out ballots and legal officials report no ballots were thrown out. Furthermore, if a voter’s ballot must be discarded, that voter has the right to fill out another ballot. (More on these cases via the Washington Post.)
Again, I’m not claiming to be a legal expert to any extent—just a curious American citizen who wants to learn more about the process and have faith that our elections are legitimate. I’m sure there’s a lot of information I missed, and in those cases, I’d be interested in seeing those sources and hearing those arguments so I can educate myself. Please share them with me so I can be educated!
It’s stressful, you guys. Keep reading and keep staying informed. Most importantly, remember that just because something reinforces or challenges your opinion—whether conservative or liberal—that doesn’t mean it’s true. By no means should any of us have blind faith in our elections, but based on the reading I’ve done, I feel better than ever that our system is being protected and democracy is upheld.