Occam’s Razor and voter fraud

There are a whole bunch of things that have happened over the past several weeks that make me think of Occam’s Razor. But honestly, this Op-Ed by Steve Mulroy got me thinking more about it in relation to voter fraud.

If you’re not familiar, Occam’s Razor is the concept that most problems don’t have these needlessly, and endlessly complex justifications. Really, most things have an A to B relationship and that’s all.

Things don’t have to be that complicated, or fit an ill-fitting narrative.

One fun example isthe conspiracy theory that the moon landing was staged. That’s a lot of fun to ponder, and everybody loves a good conspiracy theory, staging the moon landing very complicated. On the other hand, you’ve got a rocket that took off, you’ve got a flag planted on the Moon. Occam’s Razor says it’s probably true that NASA sent astronauts to the moon.

You can apply this idea to all sorts of things. Some of the more fun ones are those really complicated answers your children give you. You may start to believe them. Then you realize they’re your child, and likely full of shit.

But there are other applications that also work pretty well.

The Fraud of Voter Fraud

One of the more often repeated conspiracy theories is that voter fraud, particularly “in person” voter fraud, is a major problem in the United States.

But the truth of the matter is, election officials from across the political spectrum refute these claims. In person voter fraud is so rare, the Heritage Foundation’s database of it only has 1100 examples since 1979. For context, there have been over 3,000,000,000 votes cast since 1979. That means .00000000037% of votes over the past 40 years have been fraudulent.

Of the 2.5m votes for the 2016 Presidential election in Tennessee .0092% were fraudulent. A fraction of a fraction of a vote.

But some folks believe people are going to great lengths to commit voter fraud. But the truth of the matter is most voters don’t spend much time thinking about voting, much less trying to defraud elections.

There are exceptions. Like this lady from Iowa who voted twice. Or this guy from Texas who also voted twice. And even though these instances got some attention, they’re not the rule against 135,000,000 ballots cast in the 2016 election.

Occam’s Razor would tell us that in person voter fraud doesn’t happen enough to say it happens.

Suppression is a different issue

On the other hand, using suppressive tactics to commit fraud in elections is more common. Like in North Carolina, where a GOP operative “helped” people by fraudulently filling out and turning in ballots.

Or in Ohio, where two GOP elected officials sent out phony ballots to misinform voters, then won anyway.

Sometimes its just making things harder for the hell of it. You know, good old fashioned suppression.

Suppression has a long history in the United States, from Jim Crow laws or denying women the right to vote. Suppression is a tactic to make sure the “right” people are voting to achieve the “right result.

And different kinds of suppression are happening all over the country.

Like when the Wisconsin GOP went to court to force people to go to the polls to vote during a pandemic instead of voting by mail.

Or when Tennessee passed the voter ID law in 2010.

States pass suppressive laws because they can. But that’s not election fraud even though the intent is voter suppression.

Fraud and Vote By Mail

As rare as in person voter fraud is, its just as virtually nonexistent by mail.

We’ve known this, but in the classic “both-sides-er-ism” of journalism, they report the bullshit GOP politicians say about vote by mail and fraud. Even the Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud can’t find enough to justify the uproar about it, as noted by U of M Law Professor, Steve Mulroy.

Evidence for the pro-vote-by-mail side may come from an unlikely source: A database of fraud cases maintained by a conservative think tank that raises alarms over voter fraud and is decidedly not in the pro-mail ballot camp. Its data suggests that mail ballot related fraud is actually more common in states that restrict absentee voting than in other states.

The ‘voter fraud’ fraud – By Steve Mulroy in The Hill

So, following the Occam’s Razor concept, the real reason for GOP resistance to vote by mail must be something else. This fraud rationale is clearly bullshit.

Maybe this is all about voter suppression! After all, that is how GOPer’s tell each other they win elections.

When someone tells you who they are…believe them.

Indeed, in Democracy in Chains, the book I reviewed Friday, suppression was taken as a necessary strategy to win elections.

In the pro-business “libertarian” thinking of James Buchanan and Charles Koch, which funds many GOP campaigns, “too much democracy” is a bad thing.

Making the voting franchise hard to use or obtain is one way to avoid the “too much democracy” problem many on the right see. So suppression it is.

Security is important, so is liberty

That’s not to say security isn’t important. But there’s always been a tension in America between security and liberty. When there’s too much security, liberty is infringed, and the other way around.

The balance between the two that is the source of many disagreements.

There’s no question our elections need security. But what kind of security and how should that security be focused?

Do we need measures that make voting harder, to “ensure the right people are voting” wink, wink? Or is there something else putting the security of our elections at risk?

A recent bipartisan Senate Intelligence report unanimously confirmed Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The majority of this Russian Government led effort was a disinformation campaign. There’s no evidence of vote changing or vote fraud. So the security of our elections hinges as much or more on disclosure of sources of advertising, and sources of funding, as ensuring people aren’t committing the rare instance of voter fraud.

There’s a long history of groups and governments using disinformation to restrict or deny the franchise to people.

That’s where the real election fraud is in America.


If Republicans want to do something about election security, fraud by disinformation is one of the biggest targets. But that’s not on the menu. Tennessee’s own Marsha Blackburn blocked two of those bills in the Senate. Mitch McConnell has eight more election security bills sitting on his desk that he won’t take up.

The GOP trope of voter fraud is nothing more than suppression dressed up as security. Its misdirection they use to deny people the voting franchise.

That’s the simplest answer when they go silent after one of their own State Party organizations is implicated in actual voter fraud.

Or when they flat out say, suppression is how they win elections.

Its the simplest answer because Republicans said it themselves.

When they tell you who they are, believe them…

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