Electoral Fraud: Boogeyman, or a Genuine Problem?

Contributed Post

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With so many people unhappy with the way elections have turned out over the past couple of years – including a particular one that occurred sometime in November 2016 – concerns about electoral fraud seem to have become more prevalent in the news and on social media over the past year or so. In fact, many politicians seem to be preemptively complaining about electoral fraud before the elections have even taken place. Still, most of the complaints seem to take place afterwards.

Should we simply chalk all of this up to “sore losing”? Are people only crying out “electoral fraud” because they didn’t get the result they wanted? Well, that may very well be the case for many people. But others may have genuine concerns of electoral fraud that transcend partisanship.

Let’s be clear: electoral fraud is a thing, in that it exists and people do engage in it. As for how big a problem it is? That’s another question. From what we can assess – and in spite of the claims that certain billionaire-real-estate-investors-turned-Presidents have made – there’s really very little evidence that electoral fraud takes place on a scale that really influences elections in a big way.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to tackle electoral fraud. But if we want to have a serious discussion about problems in the voting system, then there may be bigger fish to fry. A lot of problems with multiple votes or a lack of being allowed to vote comes from sheer error and oversight, as well a technical issues.

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One of the most controversial issues in this field is electronic voting. Back in mid-2016, the software company Symantec claimed that hacking an electronic voting device could be easier than people think. One of the leading concerns here is that a lot of states are using machines that are about a decade old, with software that might not be up to scratch. However, there are companies like Smartmatic that are developing technology which can provide a much more stable and user-friendly electronic voting experience. It might be worth paying more attention to such developments before panicking about electronic voter fraud!

There are still concerns about non-electronic voting that have stirred up a lot of controversy. The problem isn’t so much that we’re not aware of fraud and errors and oversights – it’s the proposed solutions. While mandatory presentation of I.D. is understandably a touchy issue, it’s not as clear-cut as either the haters nor the supporters like to make it out to be.

There are two proposed solutions that have been suggested to help tackle electoral fraud on a wider scale: same day voter registration, which reduces the risk of falsified registrations, and state consortiums that help tackle people registering to vote in more than one state.

Still, it’s worth highlighting that such ill-begotten votes don’t seem to hold much sway when it comes to influencing the elections themselves. They need to be tackled, but many people calling for reforms at the moment are simply upset that Trump won. Instead of assuming that something must have gone terrible awry on Election Day, perhaps we should be paying more attention to what went awry before Election Day: how did the electorate get so angry? And how did we end up having to choose between the two least popular Presidential candidates in history?