Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Voter Fraud, The Narrative: How to Win Someone Else's Election, the Russian Way

If you follow European politics, you may have heard about the recent, contentious elections in Austria.

Much like the Greek elections that preceded it, Austria's elections this year were characterized by extreme partisan polarization.  Austria, like Greece before it, has been a target of ongoing Russian active measures seeking to manipulate the elections and, as I have described before, influence both the far left and far right while playing them against not only each other but also the center.

And, much like what happened in Greece, by the time the polls opened up in Austria, the centrists were so thoroughly decimated and the nation so polarized, the far left and far right dominated on election day. In the end, the candidates that mattered were Alexander Van der Bellen of the far left Green Party and the winner, Norbert Hofer of the far right Freedom Party of Austria.

To put the election results in perspective, the majority Social Democratic Party of Austria is generally supported by just under 27% of the population, came in fourth place in the elections, garnering only 11.3% of the vote. The second most popular party in Austria, the Austrian People's Party, which normally garners 24% of the vote, received only 11.1%.

Along came the runoff election on May 23rd, and the candidates' fortunes were reversed with the tallying of postal ballots.

To many familiar with Russia's not-so-covert backing of Europe's far right, the runoff election represented a dodged bullet. But lo and behold, on July 1st Austria's Constitutional Court ruled that electoral law in the majority of Austria's administrative districts had been violated. We will discover the results of Austria's elections after our own. A redux of the runoff election is presently scheduled for December 4th.

Almost reminds me of the 2000 Florida election recount...

Back in America, Kremlin meddling rears its ugly head once again (Did it ever really stop?). And for those of my readers who follow the Kremlin's often ridiculous (yet vexingly influential) narratives in the news and social media, you may have noticed agitprop related to the possibility of voter fraud in our own 2016 elections, with increasing intensity.

Brian Stelter, a reporter at CNN, noticed this trend and offers some critical insight, here.

If you get the chance, it's well worth watching.

As you might expect, Twitter is full of voter fraud narratives as well.

While Russia is certainly using its influence to install far right candidates in both Europe and America, its overall goal is much broader. Russia is trying to erode America's confidence in our own electoral process. Donald Trump's own comments are an attempt to imprint the minds of the American acclimate us with the notion of widespread voter fraud.

Is it necessary for voter fraud to even occur, in order to erode the credibility of the elections?

Probably not.

All that really matters is the perception that voter fraud occurred.

But let's suppose for a moment that Russia plans to commit voter fraud in America. How would they do it?

Scenario #1: Phony Hillary Clinton Voter Fraud

Russia's objective would be to paint Hillary Clinton as a "corruptician" who will stop at nothing, not even voter fraud, in order to become the next President of the United States.

Russia would want to make it obvious to anyone rational that something had gone amiss.  In my estimation, they would locate districts where Clinton is assured to win and stuff ballots to the extent that it would be noticed, say 150% voter participation or more.

Scenario #2: Donald Trump Voter Fraud

Same scenario as the first, only they would stuff Trump ballots in a Trump-friendly district.

Scenario #3: Mess with people's heads

In predominantly minority districts, like Harlem, N.Y., voter fraud might consist of inordinately high vote counts for Evan McMullin or Gary Johnson. The effect, of course, being that the system is rigged by government insiders and/or whites.

I can only imagine the conspiracy theories the Kremlin could cook up, given such a scenario.

With regard to the Austrian elections, I have to believe that at least one or both of the first two scenarios took place, otherwise there would likely not have been sufficient evidence to warrant a runoff re-vote.

In my opinion, Russia (Trump) wants to repeat the 2000 elections in America. And they may or may not commit voter fraud in order to make it happen.  But regardless of whether they do or not, Russia (Trump) is already accomplishing one of their goals...

They are influencing the American electorate and destroying people's faith in American Democracy.

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