Memo to Candidates: What to Do In Case of Voter Problems
by Matt Stoller, Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 06:23:55 AM EST
Here's some advice for Democratic candidates in tight races where there are electoral problems, such as Victoria Wulsin in OH-02. You need to be prepared for your opponent to steal votes using a mix of local operatives and national legal expertise. Here are some tips for what to do if you find yourself in one of these situations.
First of all, you will be dead-tired. It will be 10pm and there will be weird reports of voting problems, but you will want to sleep for a year. There will be people tell you that you should concede. Pick yourself up and realize that if it's close, you probably won this election, but that's not necessarily what the tallies are showing. This situation could continue for days. You will be able to rest in a week, but you have to fight for now. Don't concede. Your supporters expect you to fight for them.
Your most powerful opponent is corrupt or incompetent voting authorities who release incomplete numbers that are narrowly favorable to your opponent. Once numbers come out, even if they are shaky, incomplete, and/or uncertain, perceptions begin to form in voters' minds about who won and lost. Don't underestimate everyone's desire for a quick resolution. You must fight this desire if you think there is any chance that this election wasn't decided properly.
Here are some tips on how to do so.
1) Document bad faith acts
Usually election theft happens with campaigns that have already done shady things. Weird mailers, lying, FEC violations, voter suppression, etc. Most campaigns have trails of illicit dealings. These should be documented to show a pattern of misbehavior on the part of your opposition. This pattern is very important when telling your side of the story and delegitimizing your opponents' claims.
2) 'I'm confident of victory when all the votes are counted.'
Claim victory. Voters won't stand behind people who don't think they've won. The 'we must count every vote' line doesn't work, it doesn't work with the people and it doesn't work in courts. If you don't want to declare victory, say that you are confident of victory and want to make sure all the votes are counted.
3) Immediately Appeal to Authorities
If there are illicit activities (like robocalls or electoral irregularities), report them to authorities and file complaints. Be very loud and public about these complaints. This will help with the necessary narrative of unseemly activities on the part of your opposition.
How do you know whether there is real electoral theft?
You don't. In fact incompetence and corruption are often indistinguishable, because one way of stealing an election is to build incompetence into the electoral process before the election and then take advantage of it the day of.
Now, of course you don't want to pretend like there's voter theft when there's not. But realize that uncertainty is the main emotion you'll feel, because there is rarely clear proof of electoral theft the night of the election. Work through it. If there are problems, be very aggressive about pushing the message out that if the process is fully vetted that you think you will win. The worst that happens is some embarrassment if you are wrong. And if you don't do this, the Republicans will, and the worst that happens if you don't fight is, oh, war with Iran.