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How to: Do Election Fraud, Steal Elections or Fix a Vote

Part 1 Motivation and Actors

I started this article thinking that "fixing" elections would be about how automated voting machines lend themselves to many ways of fraud. And there are lots of ways they do. But as I began to think about election fixing, I found that I had a whomping big list of strategic and tactical methods of election manipulation and I did not even get to the actual vote mechanics yet. Election fraud is not just stuffing the ballot box. How to do vote fraud and election manipulation is part 2. A real life example of holes in optical scanner voting is described in Ramsey County Minnesota Public Elections Test.

Voting is a whole process that has many opportunities to manipulate the outcome. The closer the voting results are, the more the opportunity that a subtle manipulation can swing the vote one way or the other. To frame my analysis of security in the voting process I will use techniques described by such security analysts as Bruce Schneier in his book "Secrets and Lies."


One motivation for fixing elections is that a declared winner will be almost impossible to remove from office.

Manipulation has been an accepted practice in the voting process in the United States and does not change the status of the winner unless they can be seen as proven guilty in courts of law, usually a lengthy process that allows the manipulator to legitimize the vote result as long as they hold the office. Of course, the ultimate example of legitimization of manipulated elections is the 2000 presidential election. Florida law mandated a complete recount of close elections, but the vote was not recounted, instead Bush was declared president by the Supreme Court of the USA.

Targeted voting processes, targeted classes of people and targeted geographical districts can be dismissed as not pervasive, minor aberrations, accidental or as legitimate process and do not effect the manipulated election result. So, chances are high to get away with the crime. Targeting specific classes of people, geographical districts and voting process seems to be the best methods of successful manipulation and avoiding the basic security processes of - protection, - detection, - reaction.

Targets can now be chosen easily and quickly with the computing power of a PC and access to the information of voting results provided by all states in digital format. The State of Minnesota, for example, provides information including results and voter lists by precinct for less than one hundred dollars. A few minutes with a database program or spreadsheet and close races, precincts and districts, counties and other political entities can be targeted for manipulation of just a few votes, or just enough to sway an election. Remember, an election can be decided by one vote.

Who can Manipulate Elections?

Many of the tools of manipulation are easily used by groups currently in power to influence vote outcome.

Massive manipulation is not needed in applying most strategies and tactics, rather, the application of several narrowly targeted techniques is probably more effective to swing the vote in close elections and is much easier to apply with minimum detection or any legal or political damage if caught.

Manipulation can be used by groups out of power too, the strategies and the tactics can overlap with the in power group but are arguably much less effective. The opportunities and resources to manipulate are much greater for the in power group which can control paramilitary, military, legal and bureaucratic resources including the infrastructure of the election process itself.

This article will try to analyze and list many ways to manipulate the voting process. Many of these methods are currently used to great effect in the United States and that is where most of my analysis is focused.

As described by Bruce Schneier, security penetration is a process of - Identifying targets, - Analyzing targets, - Accessing targets, - Attacking targets with specific tactics, - Cover up, hiding the attack or deflecting detection to others. This analysis can be used with great effect to set up voting process manipulation by a relatively small group, especially a subgroup of those in control of state resources.

State resources can be split between power groups, for example, the paramilitary (police) forces can be controlled by one group at a city level, the bureaucratic processes, legal processes and other paramilitary resources by another group at the State or County level. This can be used to cover and confuse the vote manipulation process as effective manipulation can be achieved through any access to the voting process.

An effect of voting machinery is that it adds more actors to the voting process access mix, the private contractor that services and programs the voting machinery, often an overlooked actor in the process, printers of ballots, maintainers of machinery, etc.

An example list of possible actors includes police managers, police unions, extra legal police organizations such as police chief associations, elections officials, judges, prosecutors, contractors, elected officials, ballot printers, precinct location providers, just about any public employee involved with elections, citizen groups, corporations. The possible actors for vote manipulation and fraud is a large set.


This Part 1 concludes that in vote fraud there is no shortage of actors and enough motivation for all actors. Targeted manipulation with several techniques of a few precincts can be very effective in manipulation of just a few votes to change results in close elections avoiding most election protections without detection and even with detection chances of adverse reactions are small.

Analysis of recent elections shows that multiple techniques are used by the actors at once to rig elections. It appears that using as many techniques as possible increases chances of a successful fixing of a vote and even manipulating election results in contests that are not very close.

Part 2 will analyze targets in the voting process.

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