Thursday, December 14, 2023

Rasmussen's cheaters

 I try not to write about individual polls very often, but occasionally I see something worthy of a little time and comment. That was the case this week when I saw an email from Rasmussen that carried the clickbait headline, “One-in-Five Mail-In Voters Admit They Cheated in 2020 Election.”

I do have an interest in polling and a few years ago I subscribed to email updates from a number of pollsters. You can get on these mailing lists for free and often get the scoop on major outlet coverage of the same polls. Of course, the caveat is that you sometimes don’t get all the details without a premium subscription and I am loathe to pay for subscriptions I don’t need. (Maybe Ordinary Times could grant me access?)

If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes truth printed wall taken at daytime
Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

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That was how I came to see this Rasmussen poll. When I clicked the link to read the details, this is what I saw:

More than 20% of voters who used mail-in ballots in 2020 admit they participated in at least one form of election fraud.

A new national telephone and online survey by Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute finds that 21% of Likely U.S. voters who voted by absentee or mail-in ballot in the 2020 election say they filled out a ballot, in part or in full, on behalf of a friend or family member, such as a spouse or child, while 78% say they didn’t. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Thirty percent (30%) of those surveyed said they voted by absentee or mail-in ballot in the 2020 election. Nineteen percent (19%) of those who cast mail-in votes say a friend or family member filled out their ballot, in part or in full, on their behalf. Furthermore, 17% of mail-in voters say that in the 2020 election, they cast a ballot in a state where they were no longer a permanent resident. All of these practices are illegal, Heartland Institute officials noted.

“The results of this survey are nothing short of stunning,” said Justin Haskins, director of the Socialism Research Center at the Heartland Institute. “For the past three years, Americans have repeatedly been told that the 2020 election was the most secure in history. But if this poll’s findings are reflective of reality, the exact opposite is true. This conclusion isn’t based on conspiracy theories or suspect evidence, but rather from the responses made directly by the voters themselves.

I’ll start by saying that two things are glaringly obvious if you read the article with a skeptical eye. One is that Rasmussen makes a giant leap in claiming that helping a family member or friend to fill out an absentee ballot is “cheating” or “election fraud.” The second is that Rasmussen does not claim that these helpers marked the ballots contrary to the wishes of the absentee voters.

The statement that helping someone fill out their ballot is illegal is questionable at best. Every state has different laws governing absentee voting. If you have questions about your state’s absentee voting laws, you should refer to election officials in your state rather than asking anyone at the Heartland Institute. That’s what I did.

I live in Georgia so looked up the Peach State’s guide to absentee voting, which is available online. It didn’t take more than a few minutes of digging to find a Frequently Asked Question that asked, “Can I receive assistance with my absentee ballot application?”

The succinct answer provided by the guide was, “Yes, but the person providing the assistance must sign the application for the absentee ballot.”

Note that Rasmussen did not ask whether assistance was provided in accordance with state and local laws. They merely asked whether any assistance was given and then pronounced everything “cheating.”

I’ll wager that most states make similar allowances. If you think about it, it’s logical that someone who is voting absentee may have infirmities that make it difficult to read, sign, and mail a ballot. It can also be difficult to understand the instructions that come with such ballots. Not being physically able to fill out a ballot or cognitively able to understand the instructions does not invalidate the right to vote, as Rasmussen would apparently have us believe.

In fact, I could be labeled as one of Rasmussen’s cheaters. In the spring of 2020, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mailed absentee ballot applications to every registered Georgia voter. I want to stress that these were only applications for ballots, not actual ballots.

In the midst of the pandemic, my wife and I decided to vote absentee in the Georgia primary that year. I helped my wife fill out her ballot and then placed both our ballots in their respective envelopes and returned them to our local drop-off point.

Did I “fill out a ballot, in part or in full, on behalf of a friend or family member?” Yes, I did.

Did I sign the envelope acknowledging that I had assisted in the preparation of the envelope? I honestly don’t remember.

Come at me, Brad Raffensperger.

The bigger question is whether I committed fraud. No, I didn’t. I helped my wife navigate the absentee ballot process, but I didn’t change her vote or tell her who to vote for (although I certainly gave her my opinion!). Her vote reflected her own ideas about who should win the primary.

And I think that’s probably the majority of what Rasmussen’s poll respondents are talking about. These are most likely people who helped elderly friends or family members or new voters who would be away at college or spouses who aren’t great with paperwork.

At the very least, Rasmussen provides no evidence to the contrary. They apparently didn’t ask, “Did you fill out someone else’s ballot and send it without their permission?” If they did, they don’t tell us the results, but is it likely that respondents would implicate themselves in election fraud to a pollster? The answer is “maybe” as we’ll see below.

That brings us to the second question, that of whether the absentee assistants could have changed the outcome of the election with fraudulent ballots. Rasmussen provides no answer here either, but it’s almost certainly no. It just isn’t easy to assemble a large number of absentee ballots that can then be fraudulently voted.

Some states, such as California, do allow ballot harvesting, which creates the opportunity for the harvester to destroy or change ballots. But this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Altered ballots would raise red flags from examiners and there are ways to follow up and confirm your ballot was accepted.

On a humorous note on my absentee ballot shenanigans in 2020, my ballot was returned because my signature on the ballot didn’t match the one on file even though had signed both of the documents at different times. I had to do some paperwork and resubmit my ballot.

I know my ballot was counted because I can look on Georgia’s My Voter website and see that I voted absentee by mail in the 2020 primary. I think most states probably have a similar system. (Of course, it doesn’t show who I voted for.)

California’s ballot harvesting probably didn’t decide statewide races. For instance, Donald Trump lost the state by about 30 points so no fraud was necessary, but I’ll point out that Republicans also embraced ballot harvesting in California. There just aren’t as many Republicans in California as there are Democrats.

The problem is bigger in local races or in states where ballot harvesting is illegal. For instance, a ballot harvesting scandal in North Carolina ended in convictions of several people for stealing and destroying ballots in 2016 and 2018. The problem for the Republican narrative is that those people were working on behalf of a Republican candidate. Unlike the 2020 election, the fraud in these North Carolina elections left a trail of evidence that would stand up in court.

And then there are the dead. Allegations of zombie voters are a perennial claim, but most states periodically purge the rolls of dead and inactive voters. A post-2020 election investigation in Georgia found that most of the alleged dead voters were found alive (Praise Jesus!). The Atlanta Journal reported that only four dead voters voted in the 2020 elections in Georgia, and family members of two of those admitted that they sent in the ballots because they knew how their dearly and recently departed kin would want to vote: Republican. So maybe fraudsters would tell pollsters if they would tell reporters and law enforcement.

In the real world, this is how absentee ballot fraud usually works. Family members send in ballots for people they know. Maybe they vote their family member’s will and maybe not.

The point is that modern security techniques make it very difficult to run a large-scale fraud operation. If a voter shows up at the poll and finds that their ballot has already been cast by an absentee, the whole scheme blows up. It also blows up if signatures and identifying information don’t match. As I found out, screeners check closely enough that I couldn’t even forge my own name.

And the scope of this sort of fraud is very limited. One absentee ballot might be relatively easy to obtain and vote fraudulently, but it’s very difficult to gather large numbers of them. How many senile aunts and deceased grandfathers can one family have?

Does absentee ballot fraud happen? Absolutely.

Does it change the outcome of elections? Almost certainly not. There are higher probabilities of swaying the outcome in small, close local races, but there is also a smaller pool of potential absentee ballots to steal.

In the end, Rasmussen’s claim is misleading, if not an outright falsehood. And I’m sad to say that this is not unusual. I have watched Rasmussen go from a respected pollster to a partisan cheerleader. Polling objectivity can be questionable when the pollster often sends out email ads for Sean Hannity and tweets articles from Gateway Pundit.

There’s an old saying that “figures lie and liars figure,” but most people who profess to distrust polls will still believe and share the ones that agree with their confirmation bias. That seems to be Rasmussen’s business model these days.

As Homer Simpson once said, “People can come up with statistics to prove anything. Fourteen percent of all people know that,” but Rasmussen’s real crime here wasn’t to make up statistics but to misrepresent their polling into saying something that it clearly does not. The poll may be valid but their claim about what the poll meant was a lie.

I like polls and I think that they provide valuable insights, but the Rasmussen poll is a good example of why we shouldn’t just take the top line at face value. Read the details, including the sample size and, if possible, compare the result to other polls using polling averages.

As Herman Cain used to say, “They think you’re stupid.” It’s your job to prove them wrong.

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IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDS: In late-breaking news, House Republicans voted unanimously to formalize the impeachment inquiry against President Biden over unanimous Democratic nays. Current Speaker Mike Johnson is on record a few years ago as opposing “single-party impeachments” but here we are.

To date, House Republican investigators have not found any firm link to impeachable actions by the president. To wit, Johnson said on the platform formerly known as Twitter, “As President Biden continues to stonewall lawful Congressional subpoenas, today’s vote of the full House of Representatives authorizing the inquiry puts us in the strongest position to enforce these subpoenas in court.”

Put into simpler terms, Republicans say they have to form an impeachment inquiry to determine if (or to be more accurate, why) they need to go forward with impeachment proceedings. To me that sounds a lot like a former Speaker who argued that we needed to pass the bill so we could find out what was in it.

At some point, the Republicans will have to fish or cut bait on impeachment. Even though they all voted for the inquiry, I seriously doubt that a majority of the House would vote to impeach without much stronger evidence. There is no chance that Biden will be removed from office.

The whole matter might well end up blowing up in their faces if they can’t produce real evidence of Biden’s Joe’s wrongdoing. The president can’t be impeached for Hunter’s actions.

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DOW SURGES TO RECORD HIGH The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 37,000 for the first time on news of the Federal Reserve signaling that it may start to cut interest rates. Investors are becoming convinced that a soft landing is in store and that the country will avoid a recession.

From the Racket News

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