Home Elections How difficult is it to steal a national election by mail?

How difficult is it to steal a national election by mail?


(This August guest post, by Michael Goldstein, now seems relevant. Elected officials in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have kept the process of tally progressing in an orderly manner. we should be grateful. -Sam, May 11, 2020)

The President’s recent statements – and the actions of Postmaster Louis DeJoy – have raised concerns about the integrity of the upcoming presidential election. In a recent election, voter repression (such as intentionally slowing down mail) and election interference (such as hacking voting machines) can skew the results. However, due to the way the US elections are organized – highly local – we find that the lower risk of a stolen election than one might fear.

Suppression of voters has a long tradition in the United States, especially in Jim Crow South before. Techniques include discriminatory ID law, electoral constituencies offered under low supply or under-employment, and damaging voter scrolls to remove legitimate voters.

This year’s absentee ballot of coronavirus introduces a new goal. President Trump has denied the integrity of the absentee voting and declared that the USPS is incapable of transferring the ballots securely and on time. A large-scale USPS failure would be an act of massive voter repression, especially because of the absent voters. leaned strongly towards Biden. And Trump’s new general manager of the post office, Louis DeJoy, recently made changes that slowed mail delivery.

(Voter fraud is another possibility, but this is historically very rare in America and fundamentally does not exist to this day. Trump has sparked the specter of large-scale falsification of overseas ballots, but this is prevented by encrypting the ballots.)

Could the rhetoric of a corrupt election set the stage for Republicans to challenge a defeat in November? With enough confusion, the presidential election could be brought to a “random election”In the House of Representatives, where an interstate vote would favor Republicans.

However, this seems to be a unlikely scenario. Indeed, this is an area where the Electoral College has a lot of aversion to help, by acting like compartments on a ship: if one compartment is breached, the others can still hold the whole rise.

In the US electoral system, elections are governed locally. The integrity of the election depends on the ability and readiness of dozens of state officials and thousands of county officials to conduct an orderly election. There is a long tradition of honest electoral governance in most states, regardless of party (see This recent article by Michael Sorzan and Christopher Guerrero).

However, these are strange times, and we have to be ready for any situation. So I examined partisan controls and procedures for voting in all 50 states, which govern their elections differently.

  • 24 states elect a Chief Election Commissioner (CELO) responsible for administering and validating elections. Usually CELO is Secretary of State.
  • In six states, the governors appoint CELO.
  • 5 state legislatures and 1 state senate appoint CELOs.
  • The seven states support bipartisan electoral councils with different mechanisms for appointing council members and CELO. The governor has some degree of influence, but the councils are nominally bipartisan.

One particular risk is not election misconduct per seBut it is more likely that the CELO will not take steps to preserve the integrity of the election in the event of interference from an outside force, such as deliberately slowing down messages. Steps to maintain such integrity would include setting up small boxes or extending deadlines. For example, such steps are being performed here in New Jersey.

In my board, the dangers for Joe Biden are relatively small. The rationale for this is that the states in which Biden is more likely to implement electoral processes are governed, at least in part, by his own party. In these states, election officials can take steps to ensure that ballots are tallying in an orderly manner, even when letters are delayed. Such steps may include posting accounts, early voting, and comfortable deadlines. If these states can certify Biden as a winner, worst situations will arise.

For the purposes of this analysis, we have reviewed the states that the PEC ranks as Strong Biden, Biden likely, or Biden leaning backwards (as of August 7, 2020) and assessing the risk of dissuade. The political cards when Biden won those states were as follows:

Low risk: CELOs are Democrats or are not partisan and governor of Democrats, or CELOs of Democrats and supranational legislatures and a governor of Republicans.

Moderate risk: Partisan control is divided by the CELO and the governor, or an electoral council with a partisan history. Example: North Carolina, Wisconsin.

High risk: Republican and CELO Governor. Examples: Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio.

Even after losing all high-risk positions, Biden was able to receive 289 electoral votes with Safe / Likely Low / Moderate positions:

Safe Ability Based on Total
Total number of predictions
Biden EV
239 80 88 407
In states at risk of repression / fraud
Short 199 30 first 230
Medium 39 21 15 75
High first 29 72 102
Cumulative: Low + Medium Risk 238 289 305
For full details on this analysis, click here.

The risk that state officials will not immediately reach the DeJoy Post-General and USPS discontent is high in states with a total of 102 electoral votes indicated in red above. These high-risk states include Texas, Ohio, and Florida. But these states are not required to win the Electoral College. However, there are important elections in all three states and there is a danger of the election turn around there, especially in the Moneyball 2020 districts.

Outside of the high-risk states, the next place to watch out is the medium-risk states (indicated in orange above) with a recent bad party history. Potential hotspots include Wisconsin and North Carolina. Those are important states to watch.

In short, even in the unlikely event that election officials give up the mandate of administering elections, a stolen election seems unlikely.

Of course, at this point, the election does not seem to be over in terms of electoral terms. After a series of quasi-closed elections since 2000, this year’s contest looks like a rule of history in which one party or the other typically dominates both the popular vote and the electoral college. And if Biden is seen as an almost certain winner, state officials will have less incentive to falsify the results.

None of this changes the importance of organizing an orderly election. Don’t forget that a third of the Senate and all of the House of Representatives will participate in elections, as well as thousands of local races and voting questions. Volunteer to become a poll follower with your local election authority or political party. And don’t forget to use it Instructions for PEC 50 states and Moneyball redistribution guide to find important races near you!

Michael Goldstein is an entrepreneur based in Trenton, NJ and a former management consultant McKinsey & Company. This analysis began as part of Michael’s ongoing correspondence regarding Pandemic and Election with his classmates from HBS Section F 1983. You can find him on Twitter. @mgincnj and because of him Blog.



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