I already wrote a lot about voter fraud before the election. To summarise:
- In person voting fraud in the US is rare and ineffectual, carries stiff penalties and would be a waste of time for an organised campaign.
- Fraud around absentee ballots is more common than in-person fraud but still not huge and affects mainly smaller elections. Notably supposed anti-fraud measures proposed by Republicans address in-person fraud rather than absentee ballot fraud.
- Voter suppression techniques are a much bigger issue.
How big an impact did voter suppression measures have on the election? I doubt there will ever be a clear answer because it is hard to track why somebody didn’t vote. However, Clinton clearly suffered from a reduced turnout and voter suppression measures aim to do that AND the election was close. Americans have reason to feel cheated but the sad fact is that disenchantment with electoral processes can also drive lower turnout, so even Democrats feeling cheated helps the Republicans. Well there is a depressing thought.
Now I don’t have a decent link for the next bit because it was described to me verbally and non-committaly but I’ll sketch something out as a strawman for me to knock down.
Maybe, what-if, perhaps the GOP cheated in some other way than openly via voter suppression. Short answer is all the reasons why it is implausible that the Democrats cheat en-mass:
- It is hard for many reasons.
- The risks are high.
- The rewards are uncertain.
- There are better things to do with your time if you are a campaign.
Ok, ok, but maybe, maybe things were different with the Trump campaign because
- It was desperate.
- It didn’t give a shit about the reputation of the GOP or the long term damage getting caught cheating would cause.
- It didn’t have a ground game and maybe cheating is a better use of resources when you are badly organised.
- And look – it would explain why the polls were off and why the stories about high turnout didn’t pan out!
- Also Trump always projects – he said the Dems would cheat ergo he was planning to cheat!
Yeah but, none of that is actual empirical evidence of cheating.
- The polls being simply wrong is a SIMPLER explanation than what would have to be a complex conspiracy. The high probabilities assigned to a Clinton win by most forecasters didn’t account for a possibility of systematic polling failure – mainly because they couldn’t put a number on that. Notably Nate Silver’s figures (wrong but lower) did attempt to account for it. Importantly, even a poll that captures accurately the split in preferences, will have a very hard time capturing who will actually vote. In an election where turnout was key, predicting WHO would vote is a bigger issue than who they would vote for. p(polling error)>p(complex conspiracy)
- Yes, Trump projects but we already know how the GOP intended to rig the election because they did it quite openly and at least quasi-legally: voter suppression. It isn’t like they made much of a secret about it, how it would work or what the intended effect would be.
- The kind of fraud that would have needed to have taken place would involve electoral officials hiding/not-counting/destroying some votes from particular precincts. OK, that is a theoretical way somebody could fraudulently create the kind of voting impact we saw but it would require the GOP to have suborned multiple officials in multiple states that use different voting systems and voting technology and NOBODY on the Democrat side watching the voting NOTICING and NOBODY giving the game away and NOBODY slipping up in anyway.
In short, it just isn’t plausible and amounts to a kind of Deus Ex-Machina hope of a terrible plot twist twisting back towards a happier resolution. I also doubt it would be a happy resolution – discovering whole chunks of uncounted votes from Democrat leaning precincts would (not unreasonably) be seen by Republican supporters as evidence of Democrat cheating.
The other argument is perhaps more metaphysical and hence beyond empirical considerations:
- It’s 2016 man and it ain’t done messing with us yet.
OK spooky-2016 granted, I’ll change my mind in the event of something that looks like something more substantial than wishful thinking.