A poll worker cleans a voting booth between voters as residents of Baltimore City cast their votes in the U.S. Presidential and local congressional elections at Western High School on November 03, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland.(Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)
As a citizen who is also a political scientist, I have tried to do due diligence to assess what happened in the recent election. Who won what and at what level and what does it mean? And what about the charges of vote fraud? People keep asking me what I think, and I decided to write down the conclusions I have reached to date and on what grounds. Because charges of vote fraud have called the outcome of the presidential election into question, I have paid particular attention to them.
This memorandum is not written to persuade. It merely records my findings and reflections. Few people are really open to persuasion in any case—not just on political subjects but on any subject about which they care and on which they have adopted certain views. Diehard partisans for a certain outlook will refuse to have their beliefs questioned, and so will many others. They will be no less dismissive of a document challenging their opinions if it is full of footnotes and appendixes. Such a document will, indeed, make them resist it even more. As for the relatively few people who are truly open-minded, they will not find another person’s observations dispositive. They will, as they should, want to consider the evidence on a contested matter for themselves.
I hope that I am not deceiving myself when I say that I have not reached my conclusions regarding the 2020 election because of partisanship. I am a close student of politics, but have never belonged to a political party. If I have a bias, I suppose it is that of one who is largely alienated from both of the American parties and who believes that both of the presidential candidates in 2020 have major flaws.
It should be obvious that the issue of the legitimacy of the election is too touchy and inflamed for my view of what happened to settle it for anyone. There are numerous legal challenges to the vote in a number of states. Those charging fraud have had just a few weeks to prepare their cases, and much of the supporting material is hard to understand for those who are not political scientists, computer geeks, or statisticians. Whatever the veracity of the allegations, there is a large and growing amount of material to consider—this despite the media mantra that the charges are “baseless” or “unsupported.”
It is widely recognized that especially in their coverage of matters related to Donald Trump, the mainstream media long ago abandoned any pretense of impartiality. It is nevertheless remarkable that the media have not investigated even the more plausible-looking of the allegations of vote fraud. It did not take me long to realize that the charges were far more serious and credible than the American public had been told. In fact, this memorandum reviews the election with special reference to the allegations of fraud. I had barely begun looking into them when I noticed that, very shortly after the election, European experts on American elections, some of whom also had advanced expertise in statistics, had published articles or given interviews in which they claimed to have seen clear evidence that the election was “rigged”! In Sweden of all places, an expert on American elections published a series of articles showing that Biden’s win in the swing states simply could not be explained without assuming major fraud. Since Donald Trump is even more disdained by the media in Europe than he is here, I was surprised to hear a few European commentators refer to the presidential election as if its fraudulence should be obvious to all. I became even more curious about puzzling aspects of the election, but was still skeptical. You can find support for virtually any point of view on the Internet.
This summary of my views of the election will for the most part be confined to political-sciency observations. Although electronic ballot stuffing may be the most important of the fraud allegations, I will, because of a lack of proficiency in statistics and computer science, not go into depth on the vote anomalies that experts in these fields regard as by themselves sufficient proof of fraud.
General Trends in the Election
I will begin by offering some observations that may be elementary to a political scientist, but that, despite their large and obvious significance, have not received the kind of public attention that should have been automatic and plentiful.
First of all, the historical record indicates that when a sitting president increases his vote totals relative to his original election, he is reelected. President Trump did increase his vote, not by hundreds of thousands of votes, but by over 10 million (not counting votes of which his supporters claim that he was robbed). Trump’s support among Hispanics, a group often described as hostile to him, expanded to 32 percent, even more among Hispanic men. His support among blacks increased this year by 50 percent.
Another basic fact: certain American states almost always go with the winner. Florida and Ohio are at the top of that list, partly because they reflect the demographic composition of the U.S. as a whole. If you add Iowa, you can predict with high confidence that the winner of those three states will also be the winner of the presidential election. Trump not only carried these states, he won them very comfortably, Ohio and Iowa by about 8 percent, Florida by over 3 percent. In 1960, the outcome in these states was not the same as in the general election. What presidential election was that? Nixon-Kennedy. That is the election that was almost certainly stolen for JFK in Illinois (Cook County) and Texas. That is the election that produced the anomaly of someone winning the presidency without carrying Ohio. After 1960, winning the presidency only while carrying Ohio again became the norm. In 2020, however, Biden somehow managed without Ohio.
Let me next be a little more granular. There is another measure of who is the winner in a presidential election that is even more persuasive. This measure indicates that there was something very strange, even inexplicable, about the outcome of this year’s presidential election in the swing states. There are numerous bellwether counties across the United States that almost always vote for the winner in the national election. There are counties that voted for the winner in the presidential elections from 1980 to 2016. In 2020, with rare exceptions, these counties suddenly reversed course. They did not vote for the person regarded as the winner, but for Donald Trump. Nineteen counties have been identified whose vote is viewed as a particularly good predictor of the outcome in the presidential election. They are virtually certain to go with the winner. It has been assumed that if a candidate carries 15 to 16 of those 19 counties, he is also bound to be the winner of the presidency.
How, then, did the 2020 election turn out in those bellwether counties? Trump won no fewer than 18 of the 19! Even more telling, he improved his performance in these counties. A county having been on the list of voting for the winner of presidential elections for a very long time does not by itself make the outcome there more predictive, but a few examples of such counties are striking. Valencia County in New Mexico has mirrored the outcome of every presidential election since 1952. In that county, Trump won by 10 percent in 2020. Indiana’s Vigo County voted for every president except two since 1882. This year, Trump carried that county by 15 percent. Westmoreland County in Virginia has failed only twice since 1928 to vote for the winner of the presidential election. Trump carried that county by 16 percent. These are but specific illustrations of a trend in the competitive counties that favored Trump about as emphatically and overwhelmingly as was possible.
Given Trump’s nationwide surge, it is not surprising that, contrary to media predictions of “a blue wave,” the Republicans actually gained 13 seats in the House of Representatives. Not a single Republican incumbent House member lost—not a single one! Although far more Republicans than Democrats were up for reelection in the Senate, they were able to defend their hold on that body. (Run-offs for two Senate seats in Georgia are, as of this writing, have yet to be held.) Republicans generally did very well down-ballot. They captured both houses in the New Hampshire legislature.
Biden Had a Huge Money Advantage
It is relevant that the successes for Trump and his party took place despite unexampled, almost unbelievable levels of spending on the part of the pro-Biden, anti-Trump cause. The Democrats vastly outspent Republicans. Michael Bloomberg all by himself spent something like $5 per voter in Florida. Another example is the staggering amounts spent by billionaires, notably Big Tech executives. Much of it has been referred to as “dark money” because it largely bypassed campaign finance laws. One example is Mark Zuckerberg’s pouring some $500 million into the election to boost the Biden vote. He did so in part by donating about $350 million to the Center for Technology and Civic Life, which worked to induce voter participation in carefully selected parts of states and municipalities. This included offering election authorities money for putting voting drop-boxes in certain areas. It has been widely charged that these efforts were not just blatantly partisan but violated laws forbidding some ways of inducing people to go to the polls.
It can also be argued that by censuring information detrimental to Biden during the campaign, the social media giants offered him a huge in-kind contribution. It is hard to put a monetary value on the virtually unbounded support for Biden in the mainstream media, but it obviously gave him an enormous advantage.
Still an Uphill Struggle
Biden’s tremendous financial advantage is bound to have helped him, but we can tell now that he was nevertheless fighting an uphill battle. He had to overcome a Trump surge. Consider some important and very striking indications of how Biden did. An astonishing example of his meeting strong resistance is that he won fewer American counties than any previous modern American president-elect. Obama won 873 counties in 2008. Biden barely captured 500 in 2020! (Trump won about 2,550 counties.) The record of a winner? His percentage of the vote per state did not even match that of Hillary Clinton. Democrats are ordinarily dependent on the black vote being 85 to 90 percent in their favor to win a presidential election. Biden was not very close to that percentage. He received a much lower percentage of black votes than Obama and an even lower percentage than Hillary Clinton. Among black men he did not reach 80 percent, for Democrats a worrisomely low number. The Democrats’ share of the Hispanic vote was also down. Not only did Biden not have any coattails, he dragged his party down in congressional and state elections. Winners of the presidency routinely pick up seats for their party. Biden lost 13 seats.
The Magic Touch
You might have thought that for Biden to win the election, he would have had to equal or surpass Hillary Clinton’s vote percentages around the country. But in general, the opposite was the case. He underperformed in the bigger cities, Democratic strongholds that are crucial to Democratic victories in presidential and other elections.
When you consider all of these patterns, one feature of the presidential election stands out as remarkable—as very difficult to explain. That feature casts grave doubt on Biden’s supposed election victory. What raises disturbing questions is the paradoxical exception to Biden’s weak national performance. For some reason, in just a few states, the reported Biden vote ran counter to the national trends just described. And where was this wholly aberrant pattern? Why, in the battleground states, which Trump had won in 2016. They are the states that Biden now simply had to win to capture the presidency. In those states, Biden somehow dramatically reversed his substandard trend in the rest of the country! As mentioned before, Biden could win only one of the 19 battleground counties around the U.S., but he supposedly won all of the battleground states! How could he possibly accomplish this feat? By performing very much better in the bigger cities in the battleground states than in the bigger cities elsewhere.
Biden, the elderly, almost passive, candidate who generated no discernible popular enthusiasm—in this respect the very opposite of Trump—somehow got his numbers in Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and other cities in the swing states up sufficiently to “win” the corresponding states, in Georgia by a very small margin. The turnout in these Democratic cities was by the standards of history and as compared to cities outside of the battleground states very high. There are charges that in many precincts in heavily Democratic counties in Michigan, the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters. In Pennsylvania, at least one truck with already completed ballots is alleged to have been brought in from New York. In the same state, laws for how to vote and review ballots were simply set aside by local officials. In previous years, a substantial percentage of mail-in ballots had been invalidated for obvious errors. This year, when new and partly improvised voting procedures had brought in a vastly larger number of mail-in ballots, many of them deposited in drop boxes, almost none of them were invalidated in Democrat strongholds.
In the large states of Florida and Texas, with many large cities, the vote count was completed on Election Night. Not so in cities in the swing states. There, on the evening of Election Day, counting was suddenly stopped. Election observers and most others were sent home. CCTV captured what happened then at a voting place in a convention center in central Atlanta, Georgia. A few election workers stayed behind, pulled out suitcases with ballots from under a covered table and, without the legally required election observers, fed them into the voting machines into the early morning. A large number of sworn affidavits testify to local officials in the cities flagrantly violating election laws and indiscriminately accepting votes that had been challenged. There were charges of ballots being inserted into voting machines more than once. Among the many examples of “traditional” vote fraud and “irregularities” in city political machines was that dead people, non-citizens, and non-residents voted. Many votes were not cast by the people who had actually registered.
After official vote counting had been suspended, tabulations of votes took place that have astounded statisticians and computer experts. These experts have not been able to explain them except as a result of fraud. The issue here was electronic “ballot stuffing.” Votes recorded showed a uniform pattern in several states, such as giving a set percentage of votes to Biden and Trump. Some batches of electronically recorded votes were all or virtually all for Biden.
There were also various “glitches,” explained as “human errors,” some of which were electronically “corrected.” People familiar with election fraud in foreign countries have pointed to the sudden suspension of vote counting and “glitches” as characteristic of computer-generated fraud. The voting machines used in the battleground states have been shown to be rather easily manipulated, e.g., by inserting algorithms to continuously shift votes from one candidate to another. It is surely relevant that in this election, the aggregated election data were connected to the internet and even to servers abroad. That there are methods for manipulating elections through electronic voting is well known to experts, not least in the intelligence field.
The Question of Plausibility
Because I lack specialized knowhow, I will not try to assess what European and American experts on American elections and statistics have claimed are utterly implausible electronic vote tabulations in the battleground states. The signs of manipulation abound, and recorded vote anomalies are said to be so glaring as to be statistically inexplicable except as the result of fraud. In Pennsylvania, one big batch of some 550,000 votes is reported to have been 99.4 percent for Biden, a figure that is beyond preposterous even if you assume it to consist solely of votes from Democratic strongholds. There were similar reports elsewhere, as in Fulton County, Georgia.
This startlingly lopsided addition of votes occurred after the departure of poll watchers. Another example of statistically inexplicable tabulation is that a series of precisely equal amounts of votes went to the same candidate. Although Trump did very well in the rest of the country, improving on his 2016 performance, none of these anomalous batches of votes worked in his favor. Experts who have compared the Dominion voting machines in the battleground states to machines of a different kind in other states have asserted that, on average, the Dominion machines routinely shifted 2 to 3 percent of the votes from Trump to Biden. Data scientists and statisticians claim that in many places, Trump votes just disappeared, or batches were switched from the Trump column to the Biden column. In DeKalb County, Georgia, one batch of over 12,000 votes was switched to Biden.
People technically proficient in these matters have speculated that some of the most easily detectable anomalies are due to fraudsters having become desperate upon noticing an even stronger Trump vote than they had expected. To make up for this development, they had to improvise. They took risks, became careless, and could not easily hide the traces of their actions.
What emerges, then, is not merely a picture of local scofflaws stuffing ballots the old-fashioned way and ignoring legal requirements, but of organized manipulation on a large scale. The problems pertain to different aspects of the voting. One was how the voting system was built and could be used, one was how the receipt and counting of ballots was conducted, and yet another, probably the most important, was how votes were digitally recorded. It was that last aspect that revealed the just-mentioned anomalies. Yet the problematic features in each part of the overall process all worked to the same end—reversing the national electoral trends favoring Trump.
It should be noted that the possibility of fraudulent use of the Dominion voting system used in the swing states and many other states had been raised long before this election. In fact, this system has been criticized by DEMOCRATS as being highly manipulable, susceptible to engineering outcomes. Senators Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are among the prominent Democrats on record as criticizing the fraud potential of this voting system.
Yet in this election, in which the hated Trump was on the ballot, we are supposed to believe with the mainstream media that this system operated with high integrity and that there is nothing to see here?
How could the notion of widespread vote fraud look farfetched to many? A partial explanation is that the vast majority of people are simply unaware of the many strange, suspicious aspects of the election that have been summarized here. The mainstream media have chosen to not report on them. Probably the most important explanation is that most people are more intensely partisan than they will admit even to themselves. Many are simply unwilling to face and accept that the Donald Trump they so despise might actually have done it again, received the support of the American people. No, no, that is just an unacceptable possibility! Electoral fraud must be a groundless “conspiracy theory.”
The defensive use of the term “conspiracy theory” is telling. Contrary to common belief, the fact that something is a conspiracy theory does not by definition refute it. The question for any open-minded person is: is the alleged conspiracy actual or imaginary? Most people have no problem accepting the idea of a “conspiracy” in the case of, say, organized crime. During the Cold War, there was no problem with believing in the “communist conspiracy.” The evidence for both conspiracies was overwhelming. Over the last few years, we have lived through deep, protracted, intense hostility to Donald Trump. Attempts to cripple or get rid of him have evinced considerable ruthlessness, and they have obviously involved much elaborate collusion. Considering these circumstances, why would a conspiracy to commit election fraud in 2020 appear implausible?
Political scientists and well-informed journalists know that, for generations, political “machines” in America’s bigger cities, virtually all of them one-party enclaves, have been more or less prone to voting “irregularities.” Many Democrats concede this fact, partly because it can affect Democratic primaries. Fraud could be used against some of them or against candidates they prefer. Now take into account the deep hostility to Trump. Is it far-fetched to think that many who consider Trump a great evil persuaded themselves that getting rid of him by almost any means was appropriate, even morally heroic? As for ways of ensuring the desired outcome today, add to the old practices of the city machines the opportunities for fraud introduced by computer software and hacking. Consider at the same time the state of our culture, including the complicity of city leaders in the street riots and crime waves of recent months. Given all of these circumstances, is it not more plausible to expect vote fraud in the 2020 election than not to do so?
People who are naïve about American politics and/or have not weighed these factors may find it hard to believe that hundreds of people might collude in major fraud. But to repeat, large-scale collusion in many aspects of life is nothing new or unusual. “Traditional” American vote fraud has been a political version of organized crime, the latter, too, involving hundreds of people operating in different states. Indeed, traditional vote fraud has sometimes involved cooperation with organizations like the Mafia. An example: as a former bootlegger, the father of JFK, Joseph Kennedy, had good contacts in the mob, and in 1960, he got Sam Giancana, the Chicago Mafia boss, to fix the Democratic primary in West Virginia for JFK, a Catholic who was running in a heavily Protestant state. The expected winner, Hubert Humphrey, was incredulous. Reliable operatives can organize efforts locally without even knowing who are pulling the strings. Today computers, software programs, and hacking are facilitating compartmentalization and greatly limiting the number of individuals required to achieve large objectives. There is of course a risk that whistleblowers will expose some part of the fraud, as is beginning to happen.
Because the vote in the battleground states is what decided the 2020 election, I will not try to assess charges of fraud in other states—which is not to imply that there was none.
But have not the courts refused to give credence to charges of vote fraud? First of all, those making the charges have had to do so on the basis of just a few weeks of gathering data and affidavits and on the basis of electronic evidence and statistics hard to explain to laymen. They have also had to present their cases in largely unfriendly or hostile venues. The court system is no exception to the fading of America’s traditional culture and rule of law. For decades, American law schools have undermined that tradition by teaching law as a vehicle for implementing social justice and other “progressive” causes. Especially in the big cities, but also in the general court system and in the federal courts, highly partisan views are ubiquitous. Nobody familiar, for example, with Bruce Frohnen’s view of the current court system will expect much by way of devotion to law and impartiality in the older sense.
Some Republican-sponsored judges may blur this picture, but they, too, are operating in and are influenced by this judicial environment. They fear being attacked in the media and being shunned by their peers. Specifically, who wants to become known as taking seriously charges made by “Trump partisans”? Timid judges can avoid controversy and unwanted media attention by choosing not to “interfere” in the “political process.” Probably an even more important reason for the reluctance of courts to hear cases about electoral fraud in this presidential election is that the attitudes toward Trump of the vast majority of judges range from discomfort to sheer hostility. Most of them would like for this crude bully, this disrupter of the system to which they belong, to be simply gone. Would they like to hear charges of election fraud and thus seem to help Trump continue his sledgehammer attack on “the swamp” and “the deep state”? Not hardly, as John Wayne might say.
Resistance to Evidence
I have always been a close student of epistemology—of why people believe what they believe—and I argue that only rather unusual individuals, persons with a sensitive, active conscience and strong character, are likely to resist the ever-present inclination to look away from evidence that suggests they may be wrong. On the basis of all of what I have learnt in the last several weeks, I do not hesitate to say that those who are flatly dismissing the charges of voter fraud in this year’s election are not the open-minded observers that they might imagine themselves to be. Consciously or subconsciously, they are anti-Trump partisans or reflexively partisan Democrats, unless, like most people, they are merely timid souls fearing the consequences of offending others.
I hasten to add that being willing to look at the evidence of fraud does not, by itself, make a person a Trump sympathizer. Do many Trump supporters who charge fraud have an inclination to jump to preconceived conclusions? Of course they do—it goes without saying. But that has little to do with what actually happened in the election. The evidence and the indicia are what they are, whatever the motives of those who brought them to our attention.
Those who are partisans by temperament will assume that any charges of vote fraud in the 2020 election must spring from partisan motives. They will find it hard to believe that someone might simply want to find out what actually happened in the election, that a political scientist or responsible citizen will want to understand what the election tells us about the state of his country. What motivated me to study the election and write down my observations was not a preference for one of the two presidential candidates. It was these three things: (1) a desire to know what happened in the election; a political scientist has certain obligations; (2) a suspicion, derived in part from studies of trends in American politics, that in the 2020 election something went egregiously, disturbingly wrong; and (3) the media’s absurdly one-sided treatment of the candidates and their blacking out the charges of fraud.
There is still much to learn about this year’s election. Open-minded people have to examine the evidence of fraud for themselves, that is, do what, from the beginning, Trump haters in both parties refused to do. I am embarrassed that sophisticated Europeans should have offered real and incisive analyses of suspicious features of the election while the American mainstream media simply turned a blind eye. Their facile dismissal of vote fraud and their running interference for one of the candidates is a striking example of the kind of lack of civic responsibility that one associates not with a constitutional republic but with a banana republic. Coming on top of years of more and more blatant partisanship, the conduct of the media during the 2020 campaign and after the election illustrates that the old spirit of America constitutionalism, the rule of law, and dispassionate, respectful public debate are fading away. Instead of countering the ever-growing cynicism, demagoguery, and corruption of politicians, the media are aligning themselves with and facilitating the efforts of one side in the current battle.
What I have found to date regarding the election makes it impossible for me to accept the media version of the election outcome. It is the opposite of implausible to think that Joe Biden “won” this election because of fraud. He “won” in the battleground states by small margins. Just exactly what is the case will not be known until the charges have been thoroughly investigated. My review of the evidence is far from exhaustive, and I cannot categorically exclude the possibility that the fraud was insufficient to steal the election for Mr. Biden or the possibility that the charges will in the end turn out to have been exaggerated. Yet what I have found to date gives me no choice but to conclude that in the 2020 election, there was major and organized vote fraud and that it probably stole the election.
Those who simply assume the legitimacy of Biden’s victory are willfully ignoring too many paradoxes and strange but convenient coincidences, too many vote analyses, and too much sworn testimony. Some “mainstream” American commentators are grudgingly and belatedly conceding that, yes, well, there is always “some fraud.” But they add that there is nothing unusual about this election. My comment: if, indeed, there is nothing unusual about the election, then election observers from some international body ought to have been called in long ago. I’m afraid that what I have discovered confirms my general view that America keeps sliding into lawlessness.
The possibility that the election was fraudulent is by itself frightening—ominous. Whether or not major fraud actually took place, this year’s election will among millions and millions of Americans who already distrust the established order further undermine faith in its legitimacy. Also, the “winner” that this system produced this year will be perceived as corrupt, frail, and mentally challenged. Biden had to be literally dragged over the finish line. Because the American media have actively concealed who Biden is, it will be a while before the American people as a whole find out. When they do, it is likely to add to the anger over what is already viewed as a stolen election.
That Biden is the very embodiment of the old establishment helps explain why he is being treated with tolerance by establishment Republicans. Biden is for them in some ways much less of a threat than Trump. As for world leaders, many of them intensely dislike President Trump, but, whatever they say publicly, they are likely to regard the election of the physically and mentally challenged and otherwise greatly compromised Biden as a sign that the United States is losing its vitality and creativity. And, they will all wonder, who are the people behind the scenes who are making the real decisions?
I feel the need to add one thing. In our deteriorating society, ruthless operatives will take full advantage of all the “nice” Americans who think of themselves as civilized defenders of the best of America—the “nice” people who will (nobly they think) not lower themselves to that other level of demagoguery and shenanigans. They will tell themselves that America passes through ups and downs in cycles and that in time the country always returns to balance and normalcy. I find that view as superficial as it is common. In our current historical situation, in which the decline of traditional standards continues apace, the ruthless will rather easily outmaneuver the nice, which is why the young of today had better prepare for rough times.
Claes G. Ryn is professor of politics and founding director of the new Center for the Study of Statesmanship at The Catholic University of America. His many books include America the Virtuous and A Common Human Ground, now in a new paperback edition.
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