Top 5 Actions to Take if Voter Fraud is Suspected
There are very few activities that are as important to the American way of life as the integrity of the election process. Those who manage elections are entrusted by the citizens of our nation with ensuring that elections are handled with the utmost integrity. The prime example of that is ensuring elections are handled in such a way as to guarantee the integrity of the vote. Anytime that integrity is called into question, election managers must act quickly and precisely to preserve valuable evidence for further examination and possible investigation.
In 2012, Rasmussen Reports published a survey that showed that 64% of Americans believe voter fraud is a serious problem, and as will be shown below their fears are well deserved. (http://goo.gl/tS9H2A) Election Fraud: A Historical Perspective While candidates for elected positions have been “stealing” elections since the dawn of our nation, the most famous (and most well documented) case involves the 1948 U.S. Senate Democrat primary run-‐off election in Texas. The 1948 U.S. Senate Democrat primary run-‐off election in Texas was a contest between former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and then political newcomer Lyndon Johnson. A full five days after the polls closed, Stevens held a 157 vote lead over Johnson when unexpectedly a whole ballot box was “found” in Jim Wells County. Once counted, Johnson ended up victorious by 87 votes. There were, of course, last minute legal challenges by the Stephens campaign, but in the end the Texas Democrat Party certified Johnson as the winner.
In the 50-‐plus years since that famous election, many books have been written on the subject but one thing is clear: Lyndon Johnson stole the election by employing a long-‐held criminal syndicate in South Texas run by a local politician named George Parr (A.K.A The Duke of Duval). This was accomplished by votes cast by the dead, votes cast by those not even aware of an election, and by a “convenient” 200-‐ vote error on the final tally sheet. All of which occurred under the watchful eyes of the local election “officials”. (http://goo.gl/mEuHRX) Since the 1964 election there have been numerous instances where one side or the other has claimed voter fraud. The most well known of these is probably the presidential election of 2000 where supporters of candidate Al Gore claimed minority vote suppression in multiple counties in Florida and Ohio. While voter fraud was never substantiated, there were undoubtedly voter irregularities. Whether these irregularities ended up changing the real election results is something for historians to decide, but one thing that cannot be challenged is that the presidential election of 2000 put the topic of voter fraud firmly in the public consciousness.
After the election fiasco of 2000, most counties in the United States (with the funding assistance of the U.S. taxpayer) purchased new voting systems that used either optical scanning technology or full digital electronic voting machines. These two systems were billed as a quantum leap forward in ensuring the integrity of the voting process. Since that time, there has been no substantiated instance of voter fraud in places using the new system. There have, however, been multiple “proof of concept” studies showing that digital voter fraud is real danger. (See Blackbox Voting White Paper for more information: http://goo.gl/Sq49yk) With all of the above information in mind, those in-‐charge of elections should be ever vigilant in watching for digital voter fraud. Should they suspect that the vote has been compromised they should follow the below steps to ensure that the potential evidence is documented and preserved for future examination and investigation.
What Would Digital Election Fraud Look Like? Before getting into what to do when digital election fraud is suspected, its important to discuss how digital election fraud might manifest itself and look like to voters or poll workers. To a voter, digital election fraud, if accomplished in a “professional” manner would likely by totally invisible. To them, they would case their votes for their chosen candidates and it would appear that the machine accepted the votes as cast. If they did notice anything it would likely be that no matter who they chose initially, in the vote summary just prior to casting the ballot, the vote would appear for a different candidate. It should be noted that this scenario has been claimed in several election cycles, but has not yet been proven to be anything but a machine malfunction. (http://goo.gl/8vZxRV) To poll workers, digital election fraud, would likely come to their attention in one of three ways. First, a voter may notify them that their machine is changing their vote. Second, they may find that a machine is obviously malfunctioning. A partially successful or unsuccessful machine hack may manifest itself as a machine malfunction. Multiple machines malfunctioning in the same way should be a serious red flag for poll workers. The third way that digital election fraud would likely manifest to poll workers would be after the polls close, there may appear to be a discrepancy between the digital vote totals and the audit tape. Unfortunately all of these would likely be invisible if the hackers were sophisticated in their attack.
5 Steps To Take When Digital Election Fraud is Suspected
The single most important step as soon as digital election fraud is suspected is preservation of physical evidence. In a practical sense this means getting the suspected machines in a powered off state as quickly as possible. If the machine is malfunctioning or if the vote totals don’t match the audit trail, the machine should be directly unplugged from its power source and NOT powered down normally. The process of a normal shutdown may allow the hacked code to conceal or delete itself. If a machine is already turned off, leave it turned off and unplug it from its power source. All machines suspected of being tampered with should be segregated from the rest and placed in a secure location for further examination by forensic professionals.
All people present when the suspicion arises should be asked to give a written statement of what they observed happening prior to, during, and after the precipitating event. This ensures that anyone tasked with investigating in the future not only knows who was present, but their immediate thoughts on the situation. These written statements should also be locked in a secure area. If non-‐poll workers were present they should also be asked to give voluntary statements. If they decline, poll workers should use the voter roll to determine the people who were likely present and records the information for future investigation.
As soon as the governing body over the election is notified of the irregularity, an ad-‐hoc committee should be established to oversee the follow-‐up investigative process. This ad-‐hoc committee should not include anyone directly involved with the election process, only disinterested but trusted third parties. All contacts with outside consultants or agencies should be handled by the committee and not the governing body itself. This ensures the appearance of impartiality to everyone involved.
Until confirmation of likely election fraud is determined, the committee should refrain from contacting law enforcement. Most police agencies are not equipped with the experience, manpower, or training to competently investigate allegations involving complicated digital forensic evidence. The obvious exception would the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but they would likely not get involved until a determination of likely election fraud has occurred. In likely scenarios of digital election fraud, there is no need for a rush to judgment. If the physical evidence has been secured properly, there is plenty of time to have trained professionals extract and catalogue the evidence. Another reason not to immediately contact law enforcement is that when law enforcement gets involved, the committee or governing body will not be entitled to see or analyze the information gleaned from the physical evidence unless it is presented in open court.
As early as possible in the committee’s investigation into possible digital election fraud, they should locate and hire a qualified forensic investigative firm to conduct the internal investigation of the digital evidence. Competent forensic investigators are trained to catalogue, examine, extract data, and analyze data in a manner that no only can determine if likely digital election fraud has occurred, but also package their findings in a way that law enforcement can understand and ultimately use for investigation and prosecution. Also, a private firm is only responsible to the committee or governing body; therefore they control the breadth and scope of the investigation.
Even though many professionals believe digital voter fraud is still merely on the horizon, it only takes one compromised election cycle to totally destroy the faith that the public has in the election system. It would be wise for all governing bodies that control elections to prepare in advance and be ready to act if and when such a hacking scenario occurs.