What Happened to the "Torch of Liberty": Russia's Lessons to Learn From 3 November 2020

S.V.Zhavoronkov , A.S.Kassian , M.Yanovskiy

Abstract

The article provides an overview of the issues of the 2020 US presidential election, which were an encouraging signal to dictators of the world. The mass removal of observers from one party from the premises where the votes were counted resembles a familiar sight from the elections in Russia. The widespread introduction of regulations that obviously facilitate electoral fraud on a pretext of "facilitating" the turnout of very small extra groups of voters jeopardizes the certainty of the outcome of the choice made by all other voters. Mass postal voting with an unprecedented low percentage of rejected ballots, voting without identification cards, ballots collected by unofficial collectors – these and other novelties are now proposed to be established as a federal standard. Federal election law is expected to include mandatory federal campaign funding, as well as provisions that are poorly compatible with First Amendment law. Large-scale radical federal intervention in electoral law is unprecedented in the US history and breaks with a respected tradition of high state autonomy. All of these measures are accompanied by actions that disappoint the friends of the United States, and openly aim to break from the legacy left by the founding fathers of the Great Republic.


A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the union, than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire state.

Federalist Papers #10 [35]

1. Introduction

The outcome of the 2020 presidential elections in the United States is of great importance for the world in general and for Russia in particular, since these elections largely determine the trajectory of ideological and economic development of our civilization.

In Russia, many people believe that the 2020 election of Trump vs. Biden were fair, that there is no strong evidence of electoral fraud and that the result is valid. In part, this position comes from not knowing the texture of the past elections and the subtleties of American electoral legislation (which is significantly different from the Russian one). For example, there is little understanding that in the United States, the president has much less influence over voting course and procedure than local authorities, and the head of state, in turn, has much less influence over those than municipal authorities. People in Russia also seem to believe that America's democracy is unshakeable and its courts are exemplary, and Russia should be the last to criticize. However, Anthony Blinken, who is Biden's chief of foreign policy, made a speech on 3 March 2021 [7], where he expressed the new administration's intention to focus on the issues of American democracy (his party's interpretation thereof). At the same time, he acknowledged the existence of issues per se, as well as the fact that Russia and China are ready to take advantage of these issues.

1.1. Problem statement – we are neither judges nor prosecutors

A distinction must be made between evidence sufficient to conclude that massive fraud by Democrats has taken place and evidence sufficient to force a court to have the election results annulled in a particular county or state, and even more so to jail those responsible for fraud.

Perhaps the main argument of the left in the United States against fraud allegations boils down to the fact that since no one is serving a prison sentence for electoral fraud, it means that no such fraud was committed. This argument is incorrect. Such cases exist, and there is likely to be more of them soon. However, overseas prison sentences for electoral fraud are not our area of responsibility at all.

We believe that the closest the historical prototype of the current vote tallying is the 1876 election. They brought General Rutherford Hayes to power, who was undoubtedly personally uninvolved in the highly questionable electoral arithmetic. General Hayes (whom Democrats called "your fraudulency") was a decent man and turned out to be quite a good president.

We do not blame specific officials or politicians, but the system, laws, and ideology of the "Big, Caring and Unlimited Government" that make a routine out of electoral abuse.

We can say that electoral legislation in the US is based on the following principle: you are a gentleman, and I am a gentleman. But when one side turns from gentlemen into, for example, communists, then the system conceived by the founding fathers ceases to function.

1.2. Criminal intent (Mens Rea)

For at least ten years, US electoral legislation has been has been subject to damage. The problem has been obvious even for the authors of this article, who are not, strictly speaking, specialists in neither US studies nor electoral law [42; 43] for several years already. The "moral" rationale for damaging the legislation in dozens of states is based on the declared highest priority of facilitating access to elections for any, no matter how small, state-funded groups – clients of social bureaucrats. The price that society must pay for achieving such a goal (a small increase in the turnout of potential voters) is the threat of "zeroing" the votes of tens of millions of law-abiding taxpayers as a result of unfair non-transparent elections. The actions of the legislators of the Democratic party that has special ties to all levels of social bureaucracy (see historical statistics of voting in the District of Columbia in [41]) reveal intent and coordinated action.

Without them, independent adoption of such legislation would be impossible in many states. At the same time, representatives of the “Caring Party” describe attempts to preserve the remnants of fair elections (electoral rolls verification, requiring prior registration, voting in person with a photo ID) through "voter suppression" [16]. The "rights" of loyal groups must be exercised by undermining the integrity of the procedure and de facto deprivation of the right to vote (that is, actual "suppression") of all other voters.

An external observer could repeatedly witness manifested claims of some Western politicians and groups, supporting the "big caring government" to deprive the "wrong" voters of their right to vote.  "Big Government" supporters took the streets for massive protests not against fraud, but against the election results as such (USA in 2016, Brexit, elections in Israel in 1996), if these results do not suit the supporters of the "caring government". The protest was aimed against the results of the expression of the will of the voters precisely. For instance, in Britain, protesters directly questioned  the choice of the majority, because the decision to leave the European Union was largely supported by people of older age groups [39]. For the examples of the United States and Israel, see [42].

These astonishing protests happen against a backdrop of suppression of free speech and discussion, which has become particularly noticeable in 2020 (from reporting mass riots as "mostly peaceful protests" to blaming rebellion on those who question the integrity of electoral procedures). However, these processes also began on university campuses many years and even decades ago, on the very campuses where the current local and state-level politicians as well as entrepreneurs who own social networks came from. All of them know that regardless of the president's party affiliation, the officials they will have to deal with all belong to the same party.

Even before the summer of 2020, we could see riots break out, insults to the heritage of the founding fathers made – and not just vandalism done to the monuments to the founders, defenders and builders of a great civilization – as well as persecution of dissidents [10; 31] (for additional links and comments, see References [41]). Over the years, we could see the persecution of those who refuse to recognize the fashionable but well-known ideologies in Russia as standing above personal religious convictions and faith (Vanessa Willock v. Elane Photography LLC; Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD., et al v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission et al).

Even an outside observer will be shocked by the propaganda in a country that for centuries has been a model of freedom, personal responsibility noble private initiative – both commercial and charitable, of the worst examples that were abandoned in the homeland of communism. As a result, "social justice" is elaborated with the term "equity" (or equalization, according to the implied meaning). Equality before the law is disparaged, while the morally flawed and essentially dangerous idea of violent redistribution warned about by the Founding Fathers (including in the Tenth Letter of the Federalist [Federalist]) is actively promoted. Leaders and activists of the radicalized Democratic Party are challenging freedom of speech, religious freedom and freedom of private enterprise as well as Judeo-Christian moral and religious values with increasing frequency.

Pressure on business by political radicals exerted with the support of the Democratic Party leadership illustrates how mechanisms of strict social control are being established. The latter is absolutely necessary for committing mass fraud. For example, in order to force some witnesses of alleged violations out of their jobs [30].

Riots and the well-founded threat of repeated riots also play an important role – they put additional pressure on business, whose weak protection from bureaucrats is complemented by complete defenselessness against the rioters. The latter's representatives can now dictate their will to intimidated entrepreneurs (employee termination for using the phrase "All Lives Matter" is an example of the effectiveness of such pressure [12], despite the fact that a year before the riots, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi made exactly the same statement about the importance of all lives, not black lives only [11]). Bureaucrats and politicians have proven their ability to punish "apostates", which is extremely important in organizing massive violations of the law that are clearly disapproved by society.

Their well-coordinated actions (enacting morally questionable electoral laws, supporting violence and restricting the most basic rights of opponents) provide more than sufficient reason to suspect the "criminal intent" (mens rea) of many "unrestricted government" supporters in the United States. And, last but not least, these actions show the fundamental possibility of massive electoral fraud committed locally without many information leaks.

1.3. How the content is arranged

To make it easier for the reader, we have put a significant amount of references and confirmations in the References section [41], which follows the structure of this paper. We will consider the possibilities of secret vote tallying, focusing specifically on the problems of freedom of speech as both a guarantee of freedom of elections and a means of ensuring their transparency. We intend to pay special attention to the surprising combination of the decline in education level among some US voters with the decrease in the share of invalid ballots. We will summarize the "progressive" experience of the new US electoral legislation, including the For the People Act – H.R.1. proposed by the Democratic party. We will provide a detailed consideration of how the progressive "for the people" achievements of "democracy" and "democrats" could work in Russian context. In conclusion, we will present a simple and time-honored option for organizing elections and tallying votes, which, in our opinion, young democracies should pay heed to.

2. No strangers here: organizing vote tallying without Republican witnesses

It should be emphasized that state electoral laws do not just vary greatly in the United States. At least until the Democratic Party tried to exercise the power of Congress to regulate election procedures, given by Section 4 of Article One of the United States Constitution. The power to form agencies directly responsible for vote tallying rests with local authorities, not state ones [22]. As a consequence, since population-wise the US is mostly divided into homogeneous areas and suburbs, it is much easier to form a one-party structure rather than a bipartisan one. And the laws of most states allow it. However, there are some exceptions, Georgia being one of the more prominent. In this state, the law requires that a representative of the minority party is included in the election commission. However, ballots are counted not so much by the members of the commission as by hired clerks. These clerks may turn out to be (especially if recruited from teachers or students in a democratic county) activists of a specific party – "the party of the big caring government." At a time when the president is not guaranteed the loyalty of his own party representatives – something that was observed in 2020 overall and in Georgia as well – the clerks are virtually free to do as they please. Their freedom is not limited in resolving the key issue either, that is, whether a given postal ballot is valid or not.

The postal voting procedure, which became key in the 2020 presidential elections, was earlier elaborated by the settlement of 6 March 2020 [13]. The secretary of state, who is the chief official responsible for election integrity, adopted a procedure that made it technically impossible to recognize any significant number of ballots (see References [41] for more details).

3. First amendment and elections

Freedom of speech is inseparable from free and fair elections. Fair competition of ideas, fair reporting and careful investigation guard the rights of citizens and the transparency of the electoral process. Freedom of speech is naturally based on the right to express a point of view that may be unpleasant and arbitrarily offensive for both the minority and the majority.

The United States' journey to understanding the importance of free speech has also been long and difficult. Tolerance that the likes of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson showed to reprimands and slander went hand in hand with sentences for libel and sedition pronounced to journalists [4]. Only by 1830-40s had such instances come to naught. Against the background of increased inter-party competition, the formation of the modern understanding of freedom of speech took place, in which the "exchange of pleasantries" had no limits and restrictions except for the reader's taste and demand. However, the American Civil War once again saw recurring persecution of dissent (see References for more details [41]).

But, as every modern American "liberal" knows, the main problem of elections is the spread of unverified information by conservative media that abuse the right of the First Amendment to say and write whatever comes to mind. From the point of view of the majority of one of the two great old parties of the United States, incorrect, disgusting or deliberately misrepresented materials, messages and comments can and should be censored.

In the overwhelming majority (about four-fifths) of US universities, the First Amendment is not fully formalized within the university regulations, see [1; 17] (on the leverage officials have on universities that once were strongholds of free speech universities, see [40]).

Finding a conservative professor at a university or college becomes more and more problematic with every decade [23; 24; 25]. We can now see how Frédéric Bastiat's prophecy comes to life that, when provided with an ideological load, public funding of state and community colleges, tax breaks on student loans, as well as huge research money for leading private universities sooner or later turns education into a device for ideological intoxication used by ruling party or clique.

So, the freedom of speech, which is necessary for free and transparent, and therefore fair elections, is attacked precisely by those who argue that the elections in the United States are perfectly fine. The same freedom of speech is naturally used to censor those who, like the authors of this paper, have the audacity to question this point of view that is presented as the only correct one.

4. Pre-election revolution in education: a miraculous healing of invalid ballots

The normal percentage of errors and invalid ballots usually significantly exceeds tenths of a percent when voting is done in person at the polling station. It is an order of magnitude higher for more complex forms of voting. Of course, a voter's level of education plays an important role. It is reasonable to expect a modest percentage of errors and invalid ballots among literate, relatively educated voters. In many US states, notably Georgia and Michigan, postal voting encouraged by Democrats were largely used by groups that have difficulty reading after graduating from high school, and those who decide to go to college start... by taking a course in reading and writing skills [38]. In the 2020 elections, postal voting was used mostly by Democrats, particularly in counties and cities with extremely low levels of education in public schools. We have to point out that before 2020, there were no significant partisan and educational differences in postal voting [34: 4].

For example, in Georgia, like on average in the United States, the percentage of postal votes increased sharply in 2020. In 2016, 213,033 voters used this voting method. In 2018, 242,661 voters voted by post [14; 15]. In 2020, the number amounted to 1,322,529 [29]. At the same time, the percentage of rejected ballots dropped dramatically (see [14; 15] and [41] for more details). In the 2016 and 2018 elections, the percentage of rejected postal ballots from voters in districts with severe problems in education was noticeably (albeit less than twice) higher than among voters from "prosperous" districts [5: 22–25]. Such an insignificant difference should have raised questions by now, but Republicans chose to ignore the signal.

To clarify the problem, let us compare the situation in Georgia with the legislative election in Israel (elections to the Knesset). The latter has no serious issues in the Jewish sectors, primarily due to a well-thought-out procedure and multi-party control. The election is conducted without electronic voting, with personal attendance at the polling station and with the limited use of postal voting. In case of in-person voting at the polling station, the average share of invalid ballots is slightly below 0.5%. However, the proportion of such people in postal voting usually exceeds 2% (see [41] for details and links, as well as the verification procedure procedure).

In Israel, the choice is made among dozens of lists, but the parliament is unicameral. In the United States, the choice is actually made from two candidates (formally there are many more than that). However, elections the House of Representatives of the Congress are held along with the presidential election. Sometimes, the latter is also accompanied with the Senate elections, gubernatorial elections and elections to state and local bodies of government. That is, confusion or mistakes are no less likely to happen than in postal voting in Israel. In Israel, there is no visible issue of functional illiteracy, as in some United States counties with high concentrations of democratic electorate. The reasonably expected percentage of invalid ballots there may amount not to 2, but to between 5 and 10, and even up to 20%. When, according to official data, in 2020 such a percentage turns out to be less than in the case of in-person voting at a polling station in Israel, this cannot but raise questions.

Answers were quickly found in Georgia. They are described in the details of the procedure for invalidating a ballot. As a result of this procedure, instead of a reasonably expected level, the state's postal vote resulted in a negligible "outage" rate, less than in Israel at regular polling stations in the case of in-person voting. As we have already mentioned, the sharp decline in the percentage of rejected ballots occurred against the backdrop of a sharp increase in the use of postal voting in counties with a large proportion of the illiterate population. With a gap in the number of votes cast for presidential candidates, the actual percentage of invalid ballots would undoubtedly reverse the result. Georgia is not the only state to face with this problem, as will be show below.

5. Achievements Exhibition and For the People Act

California is the breeding and training ground for new ideas in electoral law. It is the place where things like voting without an ID card, putting voters on electoral rolls on election day, ballot harvesting by unknown persons without the slightest guarantee of secrecy of the ballot, and, of course, postal voting, have been tested. The place with the largest population and millions of immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Mass distribution of driving licenses to illegal immigrants (which are identical for a citizen and a non-citizen of the US) [26; 33; 37] is combined with the ability to vote without any ID at all while being put on electoral rolls on election day, or (this requires a substantial organizational work, which is feasible for the party that has long been ruling in the state) the ability to vote instead of those regularly abstaining. Strictly speaking, such opportunities call even the seemingly indisputable claim of Democratic supporters that they won a symbolic "popular vote" into question. Nobody knows exactly how many millions of illegal votes could have been cast in just one state of California. In the last state election, every voter received an envelope and postal ballots from the state without any request.

The For the People Act [18] submitted by radical Democrats proposes that all of these questionable practices be included in the mandatory election standard in every state. That is, instead of a minimum standard of honesty and transparency, for the first time in history, a multitude of openly dubious norms, that facilitate fraud are imposed onto states. Norms like an automatic registration procedure are imposed, and it is more difficult to clear electoral rolls. For example, there is a particular ban on checking if a voter is registered in more than one state (which would be quite logical considering how a federal template is being imposed). What is essentially proposed is legal protection for illegals who voted "accidentally" and what is prohibited is to maintain lists of those, who refused to answer the question whether he or she is in fact a US citizen at registration (Section 1013).

At the same time, the Act criminalizes false statements regarding Federal elections. For the time being, the punishment formally requires to prove the intent and the knowledge that the statement is false. However, the resources that are already being spent on driving the impossibility of discussing the legitimacy of summarizing the election results of 3 November 2020 into people's heads show that such protection is not exactly reliable, and that the Act essentially attacks the First Amendment right.

In addition, the For the People Act proposes to replace most of election funding with public instead of private, which has been traditionally used in the US. Since the Democratic Party have not been boycotted by pragmatic entrepreneurs for a long time, the measure is not aimed at "ending discrimination." What this measure does is leave the "wrong" candidates without funding or makes it as difficult for them to obtain it as possible. Public co-funding (adding four public dollars to one private dollar) automatically means abundant paperwork and control over spending. Implementing control procedures in combination with the already tried and tested (sometimes very harsh) methods of pressure on business provide ample room for discouraging candidates who are unamicable to the "Big Caring Government."

As a finale, let us note that, despite the massive campaign in the mainstream media, the overwhelming majority of Americans are well aware that this is not about new opportunities of electoral participation. It is more about opportunities to rig and "steal" elections. Whether it is voting without IDs (75% Voters believe voters should be required to show photo identification [3]), or postal voting in the union elections in Alabama at the notorious Amazon, whose leadership supports postal voting in federal elections, including through controlled media [27].

6. "I want it, I got it." Shall we try it on ourselves?

6.1. Observing the 2020 elections from Russia

In Russia, the number of fraud cases in the 2020 Russian constitutional referendum was estimated at tens of millions (for example, Sergei Shpilkin gave an over 24 million estimate, which is about 45% of the total number, but the 2000s indicate millions in any case [32]). There is no doubt the scale of electoral fraud in the US pales in comparison to that in Russia and the two are completely incomparable.

However, such a stark contrast does not mean we must stop all discussion of elections in the US. Moreover, the existing system of Electoral College makes it possible to elect a candidate with a gap as small as hundreds of votes, as was done in 2000. Initially, George Bush Jr. had a lead of 154 votes. Following a recount approved by the Supreme Court, the gap narrowed down to only 58 votes, actually narrowing as the counting progressed. Perhaps, if the recount continued, another person would become the president of the United States. We have already mentioned the extremely painful problem of summing up the results of the 1876 election. The results of the 1960 elections turned out to be extremely close as well. Then, some features of political cultures in the swinging states of Illinois and Texas gave grounds for suspicion that Richard Nixon won the election instead of John Kennedy [6; 21]. The former refused to dispute the results, believing that his sue-happy reputation might ruin his future career. However, in that election, one Keynesian anticommunist defeated another Keynesian anticommunist. Even in the above-mentioned controversial election of 1876, the ideological differences of the candidates were more than moderate by our times' standards. The ideological chasm between Donald Trump and Joseph Biden was more reminiscent of the 1996 Yeltsin–Zyuganov confrontation than the 1960 US election.

We have mostly covered recent elections, but we still have to understand that the issues concerning the US elections are not uncommon and that 2020 was not the first time it manifested, albeit in the perception of one dishonest individual – the losing candidate Donald Trump. We have to understand that this is history that repeats itself, and is regularly and actively discussed in expert and political communities in the US.

Everyone remembers the recount of votes in Florida in 2000, which would determine the outcome of the election. Back then, the US Supreme Court ruled to stop the manual recount in a situation where George Bush had a 58 vote lead over Al Gore, and the gap was still narrowing. A lesser known case took place in 2004, when Democrats went to Congress to challenge vote returns in Ohio, where there was an over 119 thousand-vote gap (about 2%). Had these vote returns not been certified by the Congress, then a different person would have been president of the US yet again. The fact that the election results are summed up not by an electoral commission, but by the Congress (a political body), which itself is elected in these elections (one chamber is elected in full at that), is the first, but far from the last oddity of electoral procedure in the US. It is clear that among Western experts, the principle of the Electoral College itself raises questions, as it allows a candidate with the minority vote to win. In 21st century alone this happened twice – in 2000 and 2016. American defenders of Electoral College object that this is the founding principles of US federalism, and this is completely normal – just like the fact that states have two Senators, although the population of these states may differ by dozens of times. The Electoral College is a fascinating topic for discussion, but it might stretch the limits of this paper considerably, which is why we shall keep it for later.

For now, let us get back to the precedents. In the United States, the election results can be counted for months, like somewhere in Afghanistan. There is nothing of the kind among other Western democracies, for example, Great Britain and Canada, whose parliamentary models are close to that of the United States. Let us emphasize once more: we are now discussing the activities of election commissions, not that of courts. For example, in 2020, a third of counties did not finish tallying the votes for the House of Representatives even a week after the elections. In the 2018 North Carolina's 9th congressional district election, the election commission refused to sum up the results weeks later, accusing the Republican winner of electoral fraud, and this decision was approved by the court as well.

In 2018 again, during gubernatorial elections in Georgia, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams refused to admit defeat, did not appear at the inauguration of Governor Brian Kemp, and claimed electoral fraud – just as Trump did recently. The 2018 Senate election in Florida was controversial as well, where 65 out of 67 counties tallied the election results the next day, but in two – Palm Beach and Broward – tens of thousands of votes for the Democratic candidate were still coming in thick and fast. The court eventually ruled to stop the count, and Republican candidate Rick Scott became Senator by a margin of only 0.2%. The executive staff of the controversial commissions was forced to resign. The hearing over the 2020 New York's 22nd congressional district election ended only in 2021: in this case, Republican candidate Claudia Tenney was leading by 29 votes. Following a recount, the margin increased to 109 votes.

Iowa's 2nd congressional district witnessed an even funnier case. Instead of appealing to a state judicial panel (where her prospects were questionable), Rita Hart, who lost 6 votes to Republican candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, took her challenge to the House of Representatives itself, demanding to tally the election results. Exactly, in the United States, the Congress has the right to independently tally the votes (the last time this right was exercised in 1985, however). At the same time, Hart claimed that thousands of votes were stolen. And this is despite the fact that the vote tallying itself is a complex procedure of processing ballots that takes a lot of time because of the existing voter registration procedure. This procedure dates back to voter qualifications of the 18th–first half of the 20th century, when voters were required to present a tax receipt or pass a literacy test to register, but it still exists. The existing signature in the database is compared with the signature on the envelope, and it is clear that each such ballot can be challenged by any given commission member, who might claim that it is someone else's signature, and it is clear that supporters of any given candidate are interested in rejecting the "stranger" ballot.

At the same time, the legislation in the clear majority of states does not set any requirements for the continuity of vote tallying, but it is actually important. It is believed that commission members are people too, they need to sleep and eat, and as a result, the ballots risk being stolen, replaced having other ballots added, etc.

Let us suppose there are unethical candidates who will shout their victory from the rooftops anyway. Howeverm these issues are being actively discussed among historians and political scientists. There has been quite a long tradition of writing about electoral fraud in the US election: see the book by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky published in 2012 [19] and one by Pippa Norris in 2017 [28]. We can only regret that, although he claimed electoral fraud in 2016, Donald Trump did not bother to pass a federal law on protecting voting rights during the first two years of his presidency, when he had a majority in both chambers. Now, the situation is changing for the opposite.

6.2. Putting Russia in the US shoes

Backward countries tend to copy the laws and practices of their application from the advanced countries. There is a suspicion that in the near future, the 2020 election practices codified by the H.R.1 - For the People Act [18] will be in demand in Russia. The authorities may especially appreciate the ban on disseminating false information about the elections. In general, the Democratic Party has been paving the way for innovations that potentially facilitate fraud for a long time. For over 10 years, it has been passing various "facilitating" regulations through the courts of various states (usually on behalf of the ACLU, an ultra-left human rights organization, supported by local Democratic factions). These regulations include optional ID number, postal voting, etc. (the case study of the 2018 midterm elections in California for a more detailed analysis of these initiatives [43]).

First, let us briefly list the main features and innovations of the 2020 US presidential elections. Second, we will present a simulation of these features and innovations used in the context of elections in Russia. And now, the summary:

1. Many states allow postal voting. This is how we see this unusual method: officials send an empty ballot to a registered voter in advance, the voter fills it in, authenticates it with his or her signature and sends it back, the signature and data on the postmark are verified at the precinct election commission (PEC), and then the ballot is added to the rest of the votes. It is important to note that in most states, representatives of a candidate have the right to collect these ballots and deliver them to the commission on their own (the "wrong" ballot can thus be thrown away or spoiled, money can be offered to the voter without witnesses, etc.). This is the exact procedure that triggered claims to annul the results of the 2018 election in North Carolina's 9th congressional district. In the 2020 elections in Russia, it was also considered preposterous that election commission members took ballot boxes door-to-door to all voters, and not just to a small number of the sick, the elderly, etc.

2. Election observation is a separate issue. In some states, there is no guarantee that observers will be present at all. In many states, this aspect is so badly outlined in the legislation that it ruins the point of observation, turning it into a counterpart of Belarus or some Russian regions, where observers are put into a corner and they do not see the actual process of sorting and counting ballots. This is exactly what happened in Philadelphia, where the footage of observers watching the counting through a telescope from behind bars at a great distance became a symbol of these elections. The Pennsylvania court dismissed the claim for annulment of the election without denying (pp. 7, 13-14 of the court decision [36]) that observers were kept at a distance of 2 to 7 meters, because Pennsylvania law only requires physical presence of observers in the building of the commission.

3. In the months leading up to the elections, the governments of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia as well as local governments changed the verification process for postal ballots to make it harder to reject ballots. It should be reminded that the overwhelming majority of postal votes were casted by Democratic voters.

4. For example, in Pennsylvania it was simply forbidden to reject ballots in the event of a signature mismatch (although this is required by law).

5. In Wisconsin, a PEC member can now fill in or correct the mailing information on the ballot by themselves if a voter has made a mistake (previously, the law required such ballots to be rejected).

6. In Georgia, clerks responsible for tallying votes used to be able to directly reject postal ballots (for example, due to signature mismatch or mistakes in addressing the envelope), each independently. Now such a decision requires a commission of three clerks, each of whom draws up a written decision. When working with a large number of postal ballots, such a change may hinder the process of counting, especially since the largest number of postal ballots was sent and counted in counties where the vast majority of clerks are Democrats. There is no time to convene such commissions and problematic ballots are simply accepted as valid. As a result, the number of ballots rejected for various reasons in Georgia was unrealistically low, standing at 0.37% (just over 2 thousand). For comparison, in the 2016 elections, the same figure was about 5.77% of the number of requested ballots or 6.42% of the number of actually counted postal ballots [14] (for details, including an analysis of the behavior of Georgia's Secretary of State who denied these obvious facts, see [41]). It should be reminded that had more than 5% of "postal" ballots alone been eliminated in 2020, Donald Trump would have won the state.

7. Mass uncontrolled mail-out of postal voting ballots. While the law permits sending an empty ballot to a voter only upon request, this time in Michigan, ballots were mailed to all voters without exception. In Pennsylvania, PECs reported about mailing out 2,700,000 ballots on the eve of the election (November 2). After the election (November 4), official data indicated that 3,100,000 mail ballots had been mailed out (Texas lawsuit, paragraph 59). At the same time, the PECs received back and processed 2,629,672 postal ballots (based on www.electionreturns.pa.gov). Taking into account 2.7 million ballots, the return of filled ballots should be almost 100%, which does not seem realistic. But on the other hand, if we take 3.1 million ballots that appeared retroactively as a premise, then the return should be 85%, which is within normal range. About 51,000 envelopes were received by the Pennsylvania PECs literally the day after they were mailed out, and 58,000 were actually received the day before empty ballots were mailed to voters (Texas lawsuit, paragraph 57). There was no explanation for this time anomaly. It should be borne in mind that the officially declared gap between Biden and Trump in Pennsylvania amounted to 81,600 votes only.

8. It is characteristic that all the demands of Republicans to recount the votes with at least a selective signature verification in suspicious polling stations were met with a refusal from the local authorities of the key states: we will do the recount, but without signature verification (for the circumstances and results of such verification in Georgia, see [41]).

9. Not admitting Trump observers to certain polling stations or requiring them to be at a distance of tens of meters from the tables where ballots are counted and signatures are verified (pretext: preventive measures against COVID-19).

10. As for votes counted using Dominion Voting Systems, there were several cases of "glitches" or "lost flash drives" that mostly affected votes for Donald Trump. At the same time, there has been no confirmation of any explicit affiliation between the Dominion developers and the Democratic Party so far, although the Dominion security chief is, for example, an antifa activist and a prominent Trump critic.

Most of these points and a number of extra details were stated in the Texas lawsuit (with the support of 17 other states) against Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia (a Russian-language review of the lawsuit can be found in Nikolai Blokhin's blog [9; 8]). The lawsuit was rejected by the US Supreme Court without proper consideration, on technical ground that Texas was an improper applicant.

This big picture can be elaborated by a variety of individual cases, for example, the testimony of a Wisconsin mail truck driver about retroactive delivery of ballots (see the Texas lawsuit), or the fact that in Nevada, a journalist easily obtained eight postal ballots (under false names), signed and mailed them to the PECs, where the ballots were accepted and counted [20].

So, in order to clarify what happened with the elections in key states, let us put the situation into the context of Russia. Let it be the presidential elections in Russia and let us take, for example, the city of Perm as a "swing state" and remember that local city and municipal authorities have a decisive influence on the course of voting. Then, the elections in Perm could take place in the following manner.

• A few months before the presidential elections, Perm mayor's office changes the rules for verifying the identity of the voter. Now, in order to receive a ballot at a polling station, a voter does not have to show a passport with a local residence permit, as any kind of identity document is enough: a driver's license, a library card, etc. Moreover, electoral rolls can be edited "on the fly" right on election day. This is against federal law, but the decision was made by local authorities, and no one could object.

• Furthermore, many polling stations neither put supporters of one of the main candidates on election commissions, nor allow them to be observers. If they are allowed to observe, however, they are seated in the farthest corner 10 meters away from the tables with ballots, because complying with the mayor's social distancing order during the COVID-19 pandemic is a must.

• Nevertheless, this disadvantaged candidate is in the lead during the day, but in the late afternoon, polling stations receive an unprecedented influx of postal ballots for his competitor. The final count of ballots in Perm revealed the competitor as the winner, but say that at the same time, the day after election, the amended official protocol indicates the number of home-voting ballots as 15% more than the original number indicated in the protocol on election day.

• Data from the PECs is collected into the Vybory State Automated System, PEC records are closed, and heads of the PECs did not hesitate to campaign for the "winning" candidate and against the "losing" candidate before the election. Vote tallying reveals that there has been multiple losses of the vote packages for the "losing" candidate.

• When the "losing" candidate demands a recount and verification of electoral roll entries (to see who received ballots and using which documents), local authorities in Perm reply with a hard refusal. The mayor's office official position is the following: yes, we had a very high turnout, and the extra ballots are from visiting employees of round-the-clock operations (allowed by law). Moreover, tens of thousands of envelopes come to Perm from the Tyva Republic for some reason. The mayor's office justifies this by the fact that many residents of the cultural capital of the Urals decided to move there for the fresh air (though the residents themselves do not know any such families).

• The “losing” candidate files claims with the courts, but the courts refuse to properly consider the claims, because the applicant is improper or there is no corpus delicti. Anyone who was an election observer and then tried to file lawsuits with Russian courts over forged PEC protocols (as the authors of this paper did, in particular), knows that the courts use such wording precisely to bounce such statements.

Indeed, we do not have such detailed graphs for the United States that would allow us to see statistical anomalies as we see them for Russia. This is due to the fact that the United States does not have a unified federal database with data on individual polling stations (like the Vybory (lit. "election") State Automated System in Russia). But the situation itself, whose the Russian counterpart is described above, is telling and convincing. Are there many people in Russia who, seeing the above-mentioned Perm simulation, will say that there is still no solid evidence of massive fraud in the city of Perm, and that the elections should be considered fair?

7. We Do Not Fix What Had Never Been Broken: Due Process of Elections

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

7.1. Answers to frequently asked questions

In conclusion, we would like to summarize a number of theses that we have discussed above.

1. To what extent is the electoral administration in the United States independent of federal, regional, and local governments, and how does this affect its conduct in voting, tallying votes, and handling complaints? The US electoral administration is independent from the federal, partly dependent on the regional and extremely dependent on local authorities. The local authorities may form commissions as they see fit; the right to obtain the status of a member of an electoral commission and/or an observer is not clearly outlined. In turn, the major cities of the United States experience a strong electoral shift – out of the 40 largest cities in the United States, only Miami is governed by Republicans.

2. The US judicial system is infrequently used because in most states, the outcome of elections is predetermined and there is no point in arguing for the sake of one vote. But given the fact that the outcome of a presidential election in the United States may depend on a single state, and on hundreds or even dozens of votes within it, this is still an important issue. Moreover, election results are certified by the elected body (Congress). The quality of the work done by the courts on electoral lawsuits has been repeatedly called into question by both parties (for example, the 2000 Supreme Court decisions to suspend the votes in Florida or the 2020 Supreme Court decisions to dismiss the claim of Texas and several other states because the election results in other states allegedly do not affect the interests of the plaintiffs).

3. The procedures of most US states are not transparent (multi-day voting that can go on for a month, possible ballot collection by representatives of candidates, "postal" voter signatures verified by commission members (and in many states, postal voting is essentially the only form of voting, there is no in-person alternative), multi-day vote tallying and storage of ballots, a voter may appear at the registration or voting premises with insufficient documents, for example, a driver's license, which is the same for both citizens and non-citizens of the United States).

4. 92,218,778 envelopes and postal ballots were requested ahead of schedule [2]. This is an obviously colossal amount, capable of changing the election results extensively. Other factors at work included the fact that candidate Donald Trump urged citizens not to vote early. But this factor does not explain the above-mentioned anomalies in postal vote returns, just as it does not explain the fact that such a procedure is more vulnerable to fraud.

In 2000, the Russian opposition also called for voting only on election day and only at polling stations, and not "on tree stumps", because not unlike Trump, it was aware of the risks of early voting.

6. TV advertising, both positive and negative constitues the main share of expenses in the US presidential election campaigns. However, the activity of various groups that bring people to the polls is quite significant as well. An exotic example of such activity is oligarch Michael Bloomberg's financing of unpaid taxes of convicts in Florida (there is a law that prevents felons who have not cleared their debts to the state from voting). Vote buying is used as well (the 2018 case of the 9th congressional district of North Carolina), although it plays a smaller role in a presidential election than in local elections.

7. A fundamental reason to doubt the election results is the absence of or and extremely poorly defined order of representation of parties in election commissions and/or in observing. We believe that if, for example, observers are not allowed to the polling station (and there are many such cases in the United States), then the vote returns at the polling station should be effectively annulled, regardless of the fact that there is no direct evidence of fraud – and there simply cannot be in such a case.

7.2. The election pattern that will inspire friends of liberty around the world

A well-known American proverb says: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Classic patterns of voting at polling stations on the election day, with observers from competing parties present, have failed nowhere and never.

We believe our readers understand perfectly well that judges (regardless of how the judicial panel is formed, whether it is a college of professional lawyers or a judge presiding over a process involving non-professionals – a trial jury) can make decisions only after meeting at a certain time in a certain place.

They aren’t allowed to hold sessions at the beach or in a café. They cannot get together at one of their colleague's country house and reach a decision there.

The Parliament cannot rent a cozy suburban complex on a private property closed to visitors and use it to think over and discuss bills and to vote.

And the reasons are clear. The first is the maximum possible level of transparency as a condition of public confidence in the decisions made. The second is creating difficulty for those wishing to exert pressure or bribe judges or delegates. The third is a familiar atmosphere that puts you into a serious and responsible frame of mind.

All these reasons are valid for the voting process as well. A voter comes to the polling station as did his or her ancestors a hundred years ago. There, in the privacy of an electoral booth, where "The God sees you, Stalin does not" (Dio ti vede, Stalin no!, see the 1948 campaign poster of Italy's Christian Democracy party in References [41]), the voter makes his or her decision. The morning after the election day, a concerned voter can see the vote returns at his or her polling station. The voter can read the preliminary results across the country in a newspaper or on a website (or hear or see in a report). This is the only way to achieve freedom from pressure, which is quite possible with new alternative methods of voting, when the lengthy procedure shifts the attention of the media and society to other issues. And this sharply the attainable level of transparency of the process, and in some cases the level of protection of each particular voter from pressure as well.

It is obvious that mass procedures of postal, early voting and ballot harvesting, not to mention voting without a photo ID, damage the transparency and confidence in the results, and cannot provide pressure-free expression of the will of citizens. It is no coincidence that authoritarian regimes use early, multi-day voting and various methods of pressure on dependent voters as actively and often as they do to ensure complete predictability of "election" results.

The adoption and widespread use of such standards in the United States does not only harm democracy in America, but also sends an encouraging signal to dictators of the world.

Received 31.03.2021, revision received 12.04.2021.


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