Reducing the Consequences of Fraud in National Elections

Thanks to the rampant fraud apparent in the 2020 presidential election, United States citizens have diminished trust in the electoral process.  Changes will be necessary to restore faith in the electoral outcome.  Voter ID laws, purging the deceased from voter rolls, blockchain technology with redundant servers, improved cyber-security, and the like are all possible ways to reduce fraud and should be pursued.  Nevertheless, there is potential that some will still attempt to illegally game an election system that they could not win legitimately.  While it may not be possible to eliminate election fraud entirely, it is relatively simple to reduce the payoff for the effort to become less effective.

The Electoral College's design is that each state casts its votes for president and vice president based on the outcomes of elections within that state in a manner that the state's legislature directs.  Each state is afforded the number of votes equal to the whole number of senators and representatives for the state, with the District of Colombia also receiving three total votes.  Because each state has two senators and at least one representative, a feature of the Electoral College is that it provides those least populous states with three votes, whereas an allotment based strictly on their population would only allow them one electoral vote.  Because of this attribute, there are times when the popular vote breaks for one candidate and the electoral vote for the other.  Some consider this an undesirable artifact of an outdated election system and propose eliminating the Electoral College, replacing it with a national popular vote.

Within the current Electoral College, fraud in one location is limited in its effect on the national outcome.  The only electoral votes affected are from that state where the fraud occurred.  The votes from other states are unaffected.  This is an essential feature of the Electoral College -- it provides a firebreak against the consequences of fraud.  In the hypothetical election where the electoral vote is equally divided at 269 for each candidate, one fraudulent popular vote would only change the election outcome if the popular vote in one state was equally divided.  It is significantly more challenging to change election outcomes with the Electoral College in place. Fraud must occur in numerous close elections -- as in the battleground states this year.  At issue here is that in most states the winner of the state's popular vote receives all the state's electoral votes.  The potential to illegitimately gain 16 to 20 electoral votes is still temptingly worthwhile.

What is needed are more firebreaks against fraud.  Maine and Nebraska currently divide their electoral votes with one vote awarded for each congressional district based on the popular vote and the remaining two given based on the state-wide popular vote.  If more states followed this method, the consequences of fraud, and the risk of changed election outcomes would be greatly reduced.  Fraudulent votes in one district would probably net the perpetrators that district's allocated vote.  If the fraud were significant enough, the two electoral votes based on statewide popular voting might also be gained but that would be the extent of the payout.  The state's remaining electoral votes would remain untainted.  With more states enacting this change, the more the national election is protected against the consequences of fraud, and the more legitimate it will be.  This is a change that is already within the power of each state legislature to enact.  No amendment to the Constitution is required.  This solution is also reversible by the same legislatures if such firebreaks prove ill-advised or unnecessary at some time in the future.

The remedy for fraud post-election remains to be found.  The judiciary seems intent on avoiding hearing cases.  The news and social media are engaged in widespread censorship of discussion.  If there is no remedy for fraud and no accountability for those who perpetrated it, why shouldn't all candidates and political parties engage in it? Those who are better at getting fraudulent votes counted would win -- the votes that will matter will be the illegal ones.  This would turn all elections into a farce.

Fraud needs to be disincentivized by minimizing the payoff for engaging in it until such time in the future when other factors are in place to guarantee that one citizen, eligible to vote, casts only one vote and that vote is counted correctly.  Putting in place a distributed electoral college vote as done in Maine and Nebraska is an easy and quick solution against the consequences of election fraud.

Image: MarkBuckawicki

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