Stealing Elections
How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy
by John Fund

Encounter Books: San Francisco, 2004
173 pages

second edition, revised & expanded: 2008

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

241 pages

October 2004

Vote early and often?

I think that most votes in most American elections are valid and counted correctly. But if you are certain that your own votes always are counted correctly, you are whistling in the dark. Maliciously malleable, or foolishly inadequate, voting procedures bedevil a multitude of local election districts across the nation, and affect many local elections as well as state and national ones. We tend to notice fraud and confusion only if it is right in our backyard, or if a state or national election is very close. Many elections are won and lost by surprisingly narrow margins.

Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy is not simply a topical book. John Fund warns of systemic failure in the American electoral process, and how inadequate so far have been our remedies. In fact, in the case of most failures in local elections, no remedy is attempted or even possible for the specific election. For succeeding elections, we eventually change technologies — to something even less secure.

Fund is co-author of an earlier book about political reform, Cleaning House: America's Campaign for Term Limits (1992). In Stealing Elections, he applies an idea from Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions: The Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. In this context, the opposing visions may be simply stated as: ensure that everyone gets to vote, and has his vote counted; versus ensure that only legitimate voters get to vote, and only legitimate votes are counted. Both sides, both concerns, are critical to making democracy work. Ideally these should be complementary goals; in practice, they harden into warring platforms.

If you think that vote-rigging legends like Tammany Hall (New York City) and the Pendergast machine (Kansas City) are firmly in our past without descendants, you should take another look. The greasy nexus of shady-money, bought-votes and phony-votes, and corrupt officeholders still translates into brazen legitimized political power — thus force-feeding still more money and corruption into the democratic process.

Fund documents an amazing variety of recent failures in our election process, with only a few glances as far back as Lyndon B. Johnson's first two Senate races or earlier.

There are virtual and imaginary registrants, dead voters and bought voters and doppelgangers all gaming our naive and corrupt system. Voting the graveyard isn't the half of it. You may well laugh and grimace; the hi-jinks both sly and crude would be funny if American elections weren't so vital to our pursuit of happiness, our prosperity, and the survival of the West. If you value living in even a reasonably free country, please read Stealing Elections.

You can trust us, we're voting machines

I'll mention just one realm of fraud and failure. Many believe or hope that computer-terminal voting or punch-card ballots are less subject to fraud or error than old-fashioned mark-in paper ballots. How about if you get a printed receipt from a voting machine verifying how you voted (which many machines do not provide)? Any programmer (if I may say so myself) can write tabulating software that gives you a receipt that states firmly in black and white that you voted for Jones, while in the computer's database, fourteen more votes are tallied for Smith. This isn't complicated: just a few lines of code can do the trick. The alleged security and transparency of the process is illusory. Computers are only as honest and reliable as the people programming and certifying them.

John Fund documents the widespread failure of a variety of recent electronic voting systems: they do not work on election morning; precinct workers are inadequately trained; unmonitored personnel adjust terminals or central county computers while elections are in progress; source code for the programs is publicly accessible on the Internet; actual vote totals are publicly accessible on the Internet while voting is underway. Of course, to put an official seal on the errors, an honest recount is virtually impossible with existing systems.

Voters and elections, or lawyers and lawsuits?

Bad procedures in voting lead to an even worse problem than the wrong candidate being elected, or a proposition being voted up or down when it should have gone the other way. The public becomes mistrustful of the free democratic process itself. Lawyers and lawsuits increasingly attack the validity of voters, procedures, ballots, and outcomes. Increasingly, the courts determine election outcomes rather than the electorate, and legalisms usurp the essence of Constitutionality. Thus elected officials seem chosen by insiders rather than by the citizenry.

There are plenty of people in America and elsewhere in the world who would be ecstatic to see the American electoral process itself de-legitimized. Once we abandon trust in our elections, the Constitution becomes a document for show only — as are so many such documents around the world that paper over phony republics with sham elections.

Far enough along that road, election reform efforts will be too little and too late. The Constitution becomes ineffective beyond retrieval. We trap ourselves under an increasingly tight ruling oligarchy that continues elections only to keep the masses quiet, and eventually we are rewarded with a President-for-Life to rule the happy subjects.

It can't happen here, you say?



© 2004 Robert Wilfred Franson

More on current voter fraud
and manufactured election crises:
True the Vote

For a critique of electronic voting,
see Bev Harris' Black Box Voting

How to obtain the U.S. Attorney General's own ballot:
Why We Need Voter-ID Laws Now
by John Fund

ComWeb at Troynovant
mail & communications,
codes & ciphers, computing,
networks, robots, the Web

Boss Tweed:
In Counting There Is Strength

by Thomas Nast

William M. Tweed
at Wikipedia

Military Voter Protection Project
rights versus disenfranchisement

Constitution at Troynovant
American founding documents,
Declaration of Independence
& U.S. Constitution


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