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Gaming The Election: Little-Known Efforts To Tip Elections Are Underway (Forbes.com) July 6, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.

“Vote early and often” is a cynical joke attributed to three different Chicagoans:  gangster Al Capone and former mayors William Hale Thompson and Richard J. Dailey.  Unless it’s the Major League All-Star ballot, which you can apparently submit 35 times, you can’t vote often, but nowadays in most states you can vote early.  And that’s just one of several devices now used or under consideration to influence election outcomes.  Call it a little pre-election gaming, and some of the little-known ideas are downright dangerous if not unconstitutional.

As a starting point, many people do not understand that an election for federal office is basically 50 different state (plus the District of Columbia) elections, per the Constitution.  States control the “times, places and manner of holding elections” for U.S. Senators and Representatives (Article I, Section 4) and the popular vote for President is actually a series of state elections for “Electors” appointed “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” (Article II, Section 1).  So nearly all these election games are played out state-by-state, which may be one reason they don’t gain more notoriety.

A classic example you’ve never heard of is the National Popular Vote bill, which is an end-run around the Electoral College that has now passed and been signed into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes and still campaigning hard.  Believing the Electoral College system to be undemocratic, and doubtless frustrated by the electoral victory of George W. Bush over the popular vote winner Al Gore in 2000, supporters of the Bill seek a compact of states holding more than the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency to agree that they will cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote.  So if California, which has signed on, votes for the Democrat, but the Republican wins the national popular vote, California will cast its electoral votes for the Republican, which seems to disenfranchise state voters.  It’s clearly an end-run to eliminate the Electoral College without doing so constitutionally, through an amendment.

Then there are the early votes, currently allowed in some form in 37 states and D.C.  Voting in some states begins as early as 45 days before an election, with the average starting time 22 days ahead.  Of course this eliminates the impact of any developments or campaigning over the last several weeks.  Although this was done to make voting easier, a recent Government Accountability Office study shows that early voting has no effect or may actually reduce voter participation.  Obviously this needs more study.

A truly wild card idea, perhaps prompted by 2016 candidates with record negative impressions among voters, is the possibility of voting no for a candidate, not just yes.  The notion would be that the negative votes are subtracted from the positive votes and a net vote becomes the final word.  The Negative Vote Association has tested the idea in Taiwan and hopes to get traction in the U.S. as well.  My worry would be that in some elections no one would win!

Finally the parties constantly battle over voter registration, with Democrats trying to ease registration requirements and boost the vote while Republicans seek to restrict them.  Federal courts are inevitably called upon to referee these contests, with cases now or recently under review in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.  The issues raised include voter ID requirements, voter registration deadlines and the like.  Ultimately the Supreme Court may have to clarify the constitutional requirements for voter registration.

Recent presidential elections have been surprisingly close, with Barack Obama winning by fewer than 200,000 votes in 2012 and George W. Bush defeating John Kerry by less than 120,000 votes in 2004.  The stakes are high and this is why all this behind-the-scenes gaming of the vote merits a lot more attention.

To read the column at Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/07/06/gaming-the-election-little-known-efforts-to-tip-elections-are-underway/#2651b6021079

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