Claims of voter fraud are a classic Russian-style disinformation campaign
By Suzanne Dean
There’s something going on in the country right now that frightens me as much as anything I’ve seen in 50 years in journalism.
It’s the disinformation campaign aimed at, and unfortunately succeeding at, convincing Americans that what was actually the best administered, most secure election in U.S. history was “rigged” and riddled with “voter fraud.”
When 150 million votes are cast in 3,000 counties, is it reasonable to assume there will be some cheating or some administrative slipups. Is it likely someone will try to vote using somebody else’s name or ballot, or that some ballots will be found on a shelf somewhere after the counts have been turned in?
Of course it is.
But is It reasonable to assume that there was a massive effort, requiring thousands of organizers, to submit tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots in states across the country, or to destroy tens of thousands of ballots, without the whole story coming out before the election?
I don’t have space here to debunk 10 percent of the false claims made by President Trump, his attorneys, Rush Limbaugh and a host of other conspiracy theorists. But let me address a few.
First, I want to put down the idea that voting by mail is fraught with the potential for fraud, that it’s possible to print and stuff drop boxes with fake ballots.
When Utah, including Sanpete County, first started to shift to voting by mail, I didn’t like it. I wasn’t worried about fraud. I just felt extending the voting time and doing away with “Election Day” as such undermined the significance of voting.
As I’ve observed mail-in voting, I’ve changed my mind. I now think it’s a big advancement in election administration, and I’m sure in the future, it will become the standard nationwide. Some very tech-savvy people have figured out how to run an election by mail in such a way that it’s as air tight as any voting system can be.
Voting by mail is easier for people. They don’t have to leave home on a specific day or stand in line, especially if they’re older or have disabilities. Mail-in voting increases turnout, which should always be a goal. In Sanpete County, 91 percent of registered voters voted this year. Most of them voted for different candidates than I did. That doesn’t matter. The fact they voted shows they love and care about America.
Voting by mail is more deliberative. When we voted at polling places on Election Day, I sometimes heard people say, “When I got down toward the end of the ballot, I didn’t know any of the people so I just marked boxes at random.”
When you mark your ballot at home, you can have information, such as the Sanpete Messenger election section, on the table at the same time. If there’s something you aren’t informed about, you can research it online before you mark your ballot.
Above all, voting by mail is much more secure than voting in person at polling places. For 30 years, I voted in person in Salt Lake City. Typically, I went to a school and waiting in line. When I got to the front table, a little old lady who was often in her 80s or older, said, “Honey, what’s your name.” I said, “Suzanne Dean.” She looked down a list and said, “Oh, there you are. Sign here.” I signed, and she gave me a ballot. In all those years I was never once asked for ID.
I voted for 10 years in Ephraim before the county went to voting by mail. It was different from Salt Lake because usually at least one of the poll workers knew me. But I only remember being asked for ID once.
Under the Utah vote-by-mail system, which is similar to the systems around the country, you have to present a government-issued ID and sometimes additional proof of residency to register to vote. Then you sign your registration. Your signature goes into a computer program that can verify signatures electronically but has the option of human intervention if verification is not clear-cut.
At election time, a ballot is sent to you at your home address, accompanied by a bar-coded return envelope. The fact that the ballot is mailed to you reduces the possibility of someone else voting in your name.
(There’s a reason why, when you get a new Visa card or a bank assigns a pin for your bank account, the bank mails the information to you rather than allowing you to pick it up in person.)
When you mail your ballot in, a clerk scans the bar code, which brings up your registration record in a statewide computer system. You are immediately marked as having voted. If you try to vote in another county, or if anyone tries to vote in your name, the fraudulent ballot is tossed out.
Once your signature is verified, all identification is removed, so your ballot is secret. Then it’s locked up until it is fed into a computerized counting machine after polls close on election night.
But unlike in 2000, where the outcome of the election came down to “hanging chads” on computer punch cards, there’s a paper backup. While election officials will tell you counting machines are more accurate than humans, ballots can be recounted by humans as they have been in Wisconsin and Georgia.
The sad thing for Donald Trump is that if he had kept his mouth shut, had not bad mouthed mail-in voting, had encouraged people to vote using any of the methods offered in their states, but above all, to vote and vote for him, he might have won the election.
There is evidence suggesting when he declared that the election system, especially voting by mail, was “rigged,” some Republicans not only didn’t vote early, not only didn’t vote by mail, they didn’t vote at all. Donald Trump may be the victim of his own stupidity.
One of the most pernicious allegations has been that voting equipment manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, Colo. can be and was tampered with so that votes for Trump went to Biden and visa versa.
Donald Trump has repeatedly said all someone needed to do was swap out the chip in a vote-counting machine for a new chip. One of Trump’s attorneys even claimed Dominion was actually owned by Venezuelans.
The company issued a statement calling the allegations”baseless, senseless, physically impossible, and unsupported by any evidence whatsoever.”
People making such claims don’t understand how the machines work, the company said. “It is important to understand that this is not possible—not on a machine-by-machine basis, not by alleged hacking, not by manipulating software and not by imagined ways of ‘sending’ votes to overseas locations,” the company said. Further, the statement said, Dominion “has no ties to Venezuela.”
The notion that anybody tampered with voting equipment was further debunked by a hand recount of the presidential votes in Georgia, which used Dominion equipment.
The biggest problem in the Georgia case was the discovery of 5,400 votes in three counties, out of nearly 5 million statewide, that had either not been counted or not reported to the Secretary of State in the initial count. When those ballots were counted and added in, totals for both candidates went up a little.
But the outcome didn’t change. In the machine count, Biden won by 12,670 votes. In the hand count, Biden won by 12,284. After the hand count, Trump’s margin went up .0099 percent compared to the machine count.
In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign shelled out $3 million for a hand recount of votes in two counties where the cities of Milwaukee and Madison are located. The result: In the recount, Biden’s statewide margin, including the two counties, went up by 87 votes out of more than 3.2 million cast. Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes.
Then there are the court cases. The Trump campaign has filed, joined or appealed at least 24 lawsuits alleging voter fraud. The suits have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, a U.S. appeals court, at least one U.S. district court, a state supreme court and various state courts.
Based on checking multiple sources, in all but two cases, courts have dismissed the cases–or the Trump campaign has withdrawn them. One case is pending. That’s more than 20 losses or surrenders in court. And based on the language of the opinions, some of the judges were pretty disgusted.
In a case asking the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania to throw out 7 million votes, Judge Matthew Brann, a conservative Republican, wrote, “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief…
“That has not happened. Instead, this court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, …unsupported by evidence.”
So why is Donald Trump continuing to put out false claims of voter fraud? One very plausible answer came from Johnathan Raunch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the largest think tank in Washington, D.C. Raunch specializes in public policy, culture and government.
“What you need to know is that what he (Donald Trump) is running right now is a classic Russian-style disinformation campaign…,” Raunch said last Sunday in an interview on CNN.
“That’s where you use every channel, not just the media, but also the bully pulpit, even litigation, to push out as many different stories and lies and half-truths as you possibly can to flood the zone with disinformation. The goal here is confuse people. And he’s doing very well at that.”
When people get sufficiently confused, frustrated and discombobulated, Raunch said, they give up and stop fighting the lies told by the propagandist.
There are a lot of wonderful things about America, and one is that we have long had the best administered and most honest elections in the world. The only fraud in the 2020 election is the story Donald Trump and people under his control are telling about it.
Donald Trump lost the election. Joseph Biden won. If you don’t believe that you’re being used and deceived by people who care a whole lot more about themselves than about American democracy.