10 Shocking Ways Elections Can Be Rigged

10 Shocking Ways Elections Are Rigged 10 Packing In an attempt to represent less populated US states as equally as more populated ones, states are separated into a number of congressional districts of around 747,000 voters

Voters in these districts then elect members of the house of representatives But to ensure that these districts always have similar numbers of voters and that they reflect the collective interests of the voters within, district lines are redrawn, roughly every decade However, this redistricting typically falls to each state’s legislature and governor, so if a party has control over both of these entities, it makes the process vulnerable to gerrymandering Most commonly, this refers to the process of ‘packing’, which occurs when a party redraws district lines so as to gather opposition voters into one district Counterintuitively, this means that the gerrymandering party suffers a heavy loss in that one district, but only as a means to win the surrounding majority of seats

This often happens to ethnic minorities, whose influence is condensed into one or two districts to limit their voice elsewhere, in a process questionably referred to as ‘bleaching’ 9 Poll Tax Following the extension of the right to vote to all races in the late 19th Century, many states implemented a poll tax in an attempt to disenfranchise poor, black voters These were so transparently racist that they often included a ‘Grandfather clause’ These clauses allowed voters to waive the poll tax, provided they had a father or grandfather who had voted… before the abolition of slavery

Granted, these poll taxes were eventually deemed illegal, although it took until 1964 to do so But modern-day equivalents certainly exist Take, for instance, the 33 states that now require some form of state-issued photo ID in order to vote, which have widely been panned as discriminatory The laws are purported to curb voter fraud, but research has shown that said fraud is wildly exaggerated compared to the disenfranchisement the laws create These IDs can often be expensive, meaning some poor voters choose to abstain from the process

They’ve also been shown to reduce minority turnout, and research has suggested that Republican legislators have implemented them in swing states to quell the minority vote 8 Student Suppression Typically, the student vote tends to lean towards the left of the political spectrum, and the American student vote more than doubling between the 2014 and 2018 midterms As a result, a number of Republican-lead states implement voting laws that have widely been accused of trying to reduce student turnout For example, a 2018 law passed in the swing state of New Hampshire was widely accused by Democrats of being a blatant attempt at voter suppression

The law effectively changed the definition of a legal resident of the state, making it harder for students, who were only living there for four years, to prove residency The required forms also seemed intentionally confusing, and it meant that those who drove in the state needed to spend money on a New Hampshire license Wisconsin voter ID laws have also been brought into question since a 2011 act seemingly made registering with a student ID almost impossible The act required that permitted ID’s expired within two years and featured a signature, while most student ID’s last four years and many don’t have signatures 7

Save the Date Since 1845, US elections have been held on Tuesdays, because this was the only day when farmers could afford to be away from the fields, market or church However, while this made sense at the time, there’s a growing feeling that the adherence to holding elections on the first Tuesday after November 1st is becoming outdated Seeing as most voters work on Tuesdays, many don’t have the time or energy to wait in line at a polling station, lowering voter turnout As a solution, many have suggested alternatives like making Election Day a federal holiday, merging the day with Veterans Day or mandating paid time off to vote Of course, early voting options are available, but many states have introduced bills to limit this, with 5 states passing bills in 2011 that reduced early voting periods

On the other side of the pond, controversy has surrounded elections dates and their relation to student voter turnout When Boris Johnson proposed an early election date of October 15th in 2019, one of his aides even admitted that the short registration period was intended to limit student voting 6 Cracking Another popular method of gerrymandering that has influenced the outcome of various US elections is ‘Cracking’, which is ostensibly the opposite of Packing It also involves redrawing district lines for partisan gain, but in this case, sees districts being mapped to BREAK UP an opposing party’s voters

This spreads them across multiple districts, reducing their influence, and thus the chances of the opposing party winning in each area When carried out correctly, this significantly lessens the opposition’s chances of gaining a majority in the state This was the case in Maryland, which was consistently Republican before some strategic redistricting in 2010 saw it turn blue Sadly, the history of Cracking is one of extreme racial prejudice, where African-American voters were frequently split into a number of districts to lessen their political influence This was done to ensure that they were unable to elect African-American politicians

Thankfully, racially motivated cracking has since been banned, at least where it can be proven Although it was only as recently as the 1965 Voting Rights Act that this was the case, and other forms of Cracking are still rife today 5 Felony Exclusion Another form of voter disenfranchisement employed in the US that has been referred to as a ‘modern-day poll tax’ is the felony exclusion laws that exist in all but two states In many states, this exclusion ends once convicts are released from their incarceration, while some end it after parole or probation ends

However, 3 states require felons to successfully petition their right to vote to the governor, which has a low success rate, effectively excluding convicts from engaging in democracy It was four states, until 2019, when Florida famously lifted their lifetime voting ban on those convicted of lesser crimes, which previously disenfranchised around 14 million people However, while this was a positive step for the state with the highest disenfranchisement rate in America, it comes with a catch The Amendment required those convicted of a crime must make full restitution before they regain their right to vote

This can effectively price a lot of convicts out of ever being able to vote, and given that restitution figures are rarely tracked, it becomes nigh on impossible to even implement 4 Data Harvesting Formed in 2013, Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting company that was found to have misused the personal data of as many as 87 million Facebook users This data was then used around the world to make targeted political advertisements, most infamously during the lead up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and Trump’s 2016 campaign Since a whistleblower revealed the use of what’s been dubbed “microtargeting”, Cambridge Analytica have already been fined, and face a class-action lawsuit for the data misuse

This mistrust of evolving digital campaigning techniques has lead to calls from companies like Mozilla for a “moratorium” on Political ads in the 2019 UK elections Granted, Twitter has banned all political advertising from its site, Google has clamped down on microtargeted ads and Facebook has put measures in place to see who has paid for ads But the effect of data harvesting looks like it may rear its head again in the 2020 presidential election That’s owing to 2018 reports that former Cambridge Analytica staff, working for a new company called Data Propria, have been hired to work on Trump’s re-election campaign 3

Media Bias Given that the media we consume forms the basis of our political outlook, many believe that without unbiased media, true democracy cannot exist This creates an uneven ground when one political party runs on policies like tax increases to the country’s richest citizens That’s because the news outlets that serve to cover those campaign policies with some level of neutrality are typically owned by the exact rich people who will be affected by them For instance, in Britain’s 2019 general election, the Labour Party ran primarily on a message of increased taxation for the country’s billionaires However, when a 2019 Loughborough University study assessed UK newspapers for the positivity and negativity with which they discussed each party, the opposing Conservative party Tories scored +4 to the Labour party’s -91

While we can’t say exactly how much this influenced the Conservative’s subsequent win, it’s also hard to argue that the British public had a fair representation of the choices available Then, on the other side of the Atlantic, President Trump’s attacks against press freedom are one of the factors that saw the country ranked as a “Flawed Democracy” by The Economist 2 Lying In 2016, the Oxford University Press, who publish the Oxford English Dictionary, picked their ‘Word of the Year’ They chose the word “Post-Truth”, which refers to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential [to] public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”

Their reasoning behind this was what they described as a 2,000% spike in usage of the word, in response to Brexit and the American presidential campaign While previously, being caught in a lie could be devastating for a political career However, in today’s political landscape, simply refusing to accept or acknowledge your own mistruths do considerably less damage than owning up and apologising This saw the Clinton email scandal effectively swept under the rug And the average 30 lies a day Trump told in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, according to The Washington Post, appear to have done nothing to reduce his support

Similarly, in the 2019 UK General Election, the Conservative Party were found to have made “misleading claims” in almost 90% of their Facebook ads, with no legal ramifications leading up to their landslide victory 1 The Electoral College The Electoral College was thought up in 1798 to get the country’s smaller states to sign off on the constitution This might go some way towards explaining why the College favours smaller states so heavily So much so that during elections, presidential hopefuls can ignore vast swathes of the country and focus campaigns primarily on a select few swing states

See, Americans don’t vote for the president, they vote for Electoral College representatives for your state who in turn vote for the President If a majority of voters in a state vote for one party, that party takes all of their electoral votes, no matter how small the margin This means that the person who gets the most votes doesn’t necessarily win, with the College giving the Presidency to presidents who lost the popular vote 5 times in history And the number of Electoral College votes per state doesn’t line up with the population size of the state, giving smaller states much more power The most egregious example of this is Wyoming, where a vote is worth more than three times the average US vote

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