Belmont Club

Democracy all over the world

Johnathan Adler of the Volkh Conspiracy looks at voter fraud — abstractly and from real life experience.  “Why am I so interested in voter fraud allegations? Perhaps because the first time I looked into voter fraud allegations, they turned out to be real — ballots had been forged and an election was stolen. … Is the Stinson-Marks case an aberration? Ancient history? I certainly hope so, but it is difficult to know for sure. The temptation to manipulate elections is real, and there are activists on both sides of the aisle that would steal an election if they thought they could get away with it, and local election administration often leaves much to be desired.”


As it turned out, Stinson campaign workers conducted an organized campaign to submit fraudulent or coerced absentee ballots. In some cases, the ballot applications and ballots were forged. In others, campaign workers filled out absentee ballots and duped voters to sign. Some voters turned up at the polls only to find that someone had already cast a ballot in their name. Dead people voted and non-English speakers were hoodwinked, and an election was stolen.

The first indication of something fishy in the Stinson-Marks election was a sudden and unprecedented surge in absentee ballot applications. There were 1757 absentee ballots cast in 1993, whereas in prior years the district barely exceeded 1,000. The Marks campaign sought to challenge many of the ballots, but without much success, in part because some ballots were opened before the polls closed (contrary to the election rules at the time).

For those who are connossieurs of foreign electoral fraud practices, let me describe two terms which may be of academic interest: hakot and dagdag-bawas. Hakot comes from the Tagalog word meaning to “round up”. It is applied to crowds who are induced by offer of a meal, gin or promise of payment to board a dump truck or a conveyance that will take them to the precinct where they will vote as indicated. The term hakot is also used to describe a similar process as applied to producing instant crowds or mobs.  In order to prevent these rented crowds from defecting or being outbid by rivals, some are actually semi-kidnapped until it’s too late to switch sides.  Here’s an anecdote from Samar. “With no further explanation you are whisked away to a house, resort, or a hotel where you are to wait for the mayor. Through out the wait-in-captivity the willing victims are treated like kings, meals are served, drinks and all other needs you cared for are provided with friendliness till the last hour of the election. As you go out from the place you will be given envelopes containing money – the least P2,000 or P3,000 pesos and an indelible ink placed unto the proper finger nail of one who had cast his/her ballot and made to pretend they have just came from voting.”


The words dagdag-bawas come from the Tagalog expressions for add and subtract.  It’s a method for altering the vote counts at the precinct or higher levels.  It is made easier by the existence of fraudulent voter records which contain the deceased, people who have registered multiple times, or simply have never existed at all.  The process as practiced on Samar is again described as follows:

The list of voters provided by the local Comelec was different from the one posted outside polling places which in turn also differs from the Voters Registration Record (VRR) with the chairman. This faulty information caused confusion, delay in the voters and some never even had a chance to vote… during the counting at the precinct level, cheating is done through the misreading of the ballots. Sometimes, the names on the ballots are not read, at other times, names not written thereon are read, thus, votes are illegally added to or subtracted from the tally.’

Inaccurate voter rolls are not wholly unknown in the United States. After all, 8 of the 9/11 hijackers could have registered to vote. “As journalist John Fund shows in an alarming new book, ‘Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,’ the United States has an elections system that would be an embarrassment in Honduras or Ghana. It is so unpoliced, he writes, that at least eight of the 9/11 hijackers ‘were actually able to register to vote in either Virginia or Florida while they made their deadly preparations.'” Whether there is any dagdag-bawas is another question. A commenter on the Volkh Conspiracy site writes:


The fact that absentee balloting has exploded this election should tell you all you need to know. No reason is needed to request an absentee ballot anymore. Who knows who fills them out, or how many are still breathing? Here in GA, we’ve already had over 600,000 votes cast, mostly women, mostly in heavily …. districts, which I’m sure is totally nearly somewhat almost coincidental (probably). Who knows how many of those are problematic?

Who knows?

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