Is It Election Fraud to Not Vote Down-Ballot? No!

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Hey everybody, I’m so sorry to be using my platform for personal gain but I really don’t know where else to turn. There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just come out with it: I stole an election, and now I need to offload it somewhere. “Pawn Stars” aren’t returning my calls, Craigslist keeps removing my listings…I don’t know, I guess people know it’s hot so they don’t wanna take it on and now I honestly don’t know what to do with it.

Anyway the good news is that we did it! Americans successfully came together to make one good decision, which was to vote Donald Trump out of office. To do that we had to vote Joe Biden into office but you know what they say, if you wanna make an omelet from scratch you must first invent the universe and then you gotta break a few eggs. Or something.

And of course, even though Biden has as of this recording won the presidency by about 5 million votes and 76 electoral college points (why don’t we call them “points” instead of “votes?” It’s a stupid game, they’re points), Trump and his fans are claiming fraud.

I’m pretty sure I don’t get tons of conspiracy theorists clicking on my videos these days but just in case, no, there is no evidence of fraud against Trump. If anything, the Republicans have engaged in some shady vote suppression, like Postmaster General DeJoy successfully delaying tens of thousands of ballots which were mailed on time but which cannot be counted due to that delay

But I wanted to talk about just one of the many conspiracy theories floated by conservatives to maintain the delusion that Trump secretly won this election. Over on Fox News lawyer Sidney Powell told Maria Bartiromo that “at least” 450k ballots in “key states” have been found with a vote only for Biden, with no other down ballot votes cast. Fellow Fox News ratfuck Tammy Bruce says, “In assessing the existence of fraudulent ballots, this kind of data is significant. #CountEveryLegalVote”

Is it though?

You may not be aware of this if you’ve never voted in a US election, but you don’t have to vote on every candidate or issue on the ballot. Hell, you can sign it and send it in without making a single mark on the ballot. Voting for only one or a few candidates is known as “undervoting,” and it’s not fraudulent. It could be morally ambiguous if, say, I’m running for the local school board and you’re allowed to vote for up to 5 people out of 30 of us running. In order to improve my own chances, I could tell my supporters “only vote for me, no one else, even though you have four more votes to hand out.” That’s known as “junking” and it is illegal in some places.

But it’s not fraudulent to throw away your own vote. If I have to vote for, say, attorney general and the only person running is the conservative incumbent, I probably wouldn’t see the goal of giving him my vote.

An unusual amount of undervoting can be a sign that voter fraud is happening, though, just like “overvoting” can be, which of course is when a ballot includes more than the maximum number of votes allowed.

So if this election had an unusual amount of undervotes, it might be a sign that something is off.

Powell wasn’t specific but said 450,000 votes in “key states,” assuming at least two states.  Let’s look at two key states that Biden won (supposedly!): Pennsylvania predicted about 7.3 million ballots cast, and Georgia predicted about 5,000,000, for a total of 12,300,000. If all 450,000 undervote ballots came from just those two states, that would mean about 3.7% of all ballots only voted for the presidential election.

Is that more than usual? Well, back in 2000 researchers found that more than 2% of ballots in presidential election years don’t even vote for the president, whether purposely or due to confusion and bad ballot design. The Washington Post found that that number held true in 2016, stating that if just the people in “swing” states who cast a ballot without voting for president had voted for Hillary Clinton, she would have won. Some states were way over the average, though, like Montana, where undervotes jumped from 1.5% in 2012 to nearly 4% in 2016. Arizona went from 1% in 2012 to about 3.25% in 2016. Those are huge jumps but strangely I don’t think anyone was concerned about investigating the number of undercount ballots back then. I wonder why? (For the record, the very blue California also saw a big jump in undercounting that year. Maybe it’s fraud, or maybe it’s more likely that a lot of people were really fucking pissed off at their choice of presidential candidates).

So yeah, if 3.5% of people in Montana can cast a vote in a presidential election without bothering to vote for the president, I don’t think we should worry too much if 3.7% of voters in swing states voted for the president without bothering to vote for their congressional representatives or school board.

Well, by “I don’t think we should worry” I mean specifically we shouldn’t worry about voter fraud. We should worry that a lot of people turned up and voted for the more liberal option for president but didn’t care about the races down ballot. That, to me, suggests an abject failure on the part of the Democratic Party: as a progressive, I wanted people to vote for Biden but I also wanted them to vote for Jaime Harrison to take Lindsay Graham’s seat in the US Senate. I want people to pay attention to what’s happening with their state representatives, because as I have talked about so many times in so many videos I want them to know that when Christian conservatives fail to push their bills about abortion, creationism, absintence-only education, and global warming denial at the federal level they push through the same bills at the state level, until they’ve done it in most of the states and it’s just as good as a federal bill and often paves the way for a federal bill. I want them to know that the school board they vote also has opinions on all those things and they are responsible for educating the next generation of our society, so whether you have kids or not you’re going to want to vote in people who understand science and secularism.

For that reason it’s hugely, hugely disappointing to know that Republicans held on to so many seats in the legislature, even while I’m very happy that Trump is on his way out (whether he and Fox News admit or not). But god damn do we have a fight ahead of us, my rational friends. A tough god damn fight. Make sure you get your rest between now and January.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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