- Election integrity is a paramount concern
- Changes to mail-in voting laws during the pandemic raised questions
- States like Georgia and Texas have taken steps to enhance election security
- Elections have become deeply divided, with traditional conceding calls fading away
As the 2024 primary season gains momentum, the media is completely engrossed in which candidate is up or down. Will Nikki Haley win more than 42% of the vote in her home state against Trump in a two-person race, a threshold she announced as her goal?
The media obsession with daily news events is akin to looking at proverbial trees rather than the forest. The more significant issue that should concern every American is: Will either party candidate ever concede the outcome of the 2024 general election? Will we have to wait until January 6, 2025, to know who the winner is (after Congressional certification)? Will there be another J6?
The harsh and sad truth is that America’s election integrity is on the ballot this Fall. The country could survive another four years of Trump or Biden. But, it cannot survive another election in which the loser doubts the results.
Democrats like to blame Trump for the mess of questioning the 2020 election results when “there was no evidence of massive voter fraud.” And it is true that Trump took it to the extremes. To counter him, liberals and media personalities have insisted for three years that the 2020 elections were fair.
Exploiting this storyline, the Democrats engineered wall-to-wall coverage of the J6 proceedings to make America an “us” vs. “MAGA” nation. Thanks to Biden’s failed leadership in unifying the nation as he promised, the election integrity needle hasn’t moved one bit for the Republicans. In Iowa last month, two-thirds of caucusgoers thought Biden stole the 2020 election.
Americans’ trust in elections would never have been an issue were it not for the Democrats’ clever 2020 election maneuvering, such as changing state election laws to distribute universal mail-in ballots and use privately funded “Zuckbucks” to pay poll workers in predominantly Democratic constituencies.
Let’s rewind the tape a bit.
In December 2019, before the world had heard of COVID-19, the United States Energy Administration announced that America had become a net oil exporter for the first time since the 1960s. The economy was booming, Black and Hispanic unemployment was at historic lows, and inflation was tightly controlled.
A few weeks later, then-President Trump ordered a strike on Iranian General Soleimani in Damascus. But for a token protest, the Iranians did not respond militarily. There were no new wars. ISIS had been decimated. America had begun talks to withdraw from Afghanistan. Border skirmishes aside, Russia and Ukraine were quiet. With ‘Remain in Mexico’ as America’s official policy, the country’s southern border was well managed. America was respected as a global power and a model nation except in European and G-7 capitals, where Trump was treated as a pariah.
The Democrats, meanwhile, were in complete disarray. Kamala Harris had already dropped out of their nomination contest, and President Biden had lost in Iowa and came in fourth in New Hampshire. With different winners in Iowa (Mayor Pete) and New Hampshire (Bernie Sanders), there was no clear leader.
It was becoming clear to liberals that the Trump train could not be stopped, and to their absolute horror, Trump’s reelection was assured.
Mark Elias, a little-known Democratic Party Elections lawyer, hatched a plan. A partisan to the core, he suggested to Democratic leaders that he could leverage Americans’ fear about COVID’s spread, government lockdowns, and mask mandates to petition changes to election laws. He was previously a partner at Perkins Coie, a law firm that took money from the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 and funneled it to Christopher Steele to kickstart the Russia-Russia hoax.
Elias’s brilliant maneuvering went unnoticed by Americans who were shocked to be imprisoned at home. They were too busy digesting the daily diet of hospitalizations and deaths statistics, and worried if they could survive financially as companies shut down and laid off employees. It was the genius of Elias’s scheme: to change laws forever when no one was paying attention.
More than 150 million Americans voted in 2020. Each vote fell into one of three categories: early votes, mail-in ballots, and Election Day ballots. President Biden led in the first two categories, while President Trump dominated the third, the largest proportion of votes among the three. Mark Elias is credited for Biden’s lead in the mail-in ballots.
In-person early voting and Election-Day voting systems in America are secure and world-class. After voters authenticate themselves via a photo ID that matches their name and address with voter rolls, they are directed to an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). The EVM prints out a paper copy that the voter takes to a separate computer system where the paper copy is scanned. If the primary EVM system fails, the backup system still has the vote electronically captured. If the backup system also fails, election officials can always retrieve the paper copy, securely stored, and complete the count by hand.
Before 2020, even the mail-in ballot processes were secure. Issues were rare, given the small proportion of total votes cast by mail, which would be unlikely to tip an election’s outcome. Who could vote by mail was also well defined: military service personnel, those abroad to further American commerce, voters who would be away at a vacation home, or those who are in a hospital or hospice, unable to travel to the voting booth. Every mail-in ballot was requested by a voter so the county knew ahead of time. The county would send the ballot by mail and authenticate the signed ballot on the return based on voter rolls and the signature on file.
In some states with low population densities, such as Alaska, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, voters have only cast their ballots by mail. Operating polling stations in vast rural areas is inefficient and ineffective. These states have invested in state-of-the-art equipment and staff training to conduct elections safely by mail. They keep voter rolls well updated by linking them with other government agencies. When a voter moves or dies, the county will automatically send an update to the state’s Secretary of State to delete the voter from the rolls.
What changed in 2020 was the number of people who voted absentee in states that had little experience with no-excuse mail-in balloting. In the heat of the Covid pandemic when election worker shortages were acute, and with nationwide riots protesting George Floyd, the Left’s entrenched desire to defeat President Trump through unprecedented changes in mail-in balloting and drop boxes took hold.
In states they controlled (like New Jersey), Democrats had the laws changed to send absentee ballots to every registered voter. Nevada’s regulations to allow universal mail-in ballots were changed just 80 days before the election. In states where the Left had no legislative control (Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin), Elias’s team filed over 145 lawsuits alleging that COVID shutdowns would disproportionately disenfranchise minorities and other communities of color. The remedies they sought were relaxed rules to accept late mail-in ballots and eliminating restrictions to verify ballot signatures against voter rolls.
Elias’s efforts were phenomenally successful. Trump led on election night 2020. But four agonizing days later, as mail-in ballots trickled in, the Associated Press declared Biden the winner.
Although elections are a matter for the states, restoring voter integrity in our elections should have been one of the mandates of the J6 Committee. In the absence of remedial Congressional action, kudos are due to numerous states, such as Georgia and Texas, that have correctly stepped in to fix election laws. And contrary to the Left’s claims that these reforms were worse than Jim Crow 2.0, primary elections in 2022 in these states were nearly flawless.
The common theme of all those reforms was requiring voter ID, eliminating drop boxes, restricting no-excuse in-person absentee balloting to two or three weeks, and outlawing Zuckbucks.
Unfortunately, liberal states like California and New York have gone the other way by liberalizing rules for mail-in ballots, accepting them weeks after Election Day and not validating them with the same scrutiny as conservative states.
Something as foundational to the American experience as elections has now become a victim of the Blue-Red divide. The other side will always question the outcome of elections. The gracious conceding call on election night has been wiped out from the American experience.
The Democrats alone are to blame for this fiasco and 2024 will show how tanged the web has become.
Rajkamal Rao is a columnist and a member of the tippinsights editorial board. He is an American entrepreneur and wrote the WorldView column for the Hindu BusinessLine, India’s second-largest financial newspaper, on the economy, politics, immigration, foreign affairs, and sports.
Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, And More
“A complete victory will deal a fatal blow to the axis of evil that is Iran, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and of course Hamas,” Netanyahu said in an address to army commanders, according to a statement issued by his office.
Failure to achieve victory will threaten Israel’s security, he said, without specifying what a victory would look like.
“There is nothing left,” says the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in a post on X that includes footage showing where one of its health clinics once stood amid many destroyed buildings in northern Gaza.
UN truck carrying food supplies was hit by Israeli navy gunfire, says UNRWA director in Gaza Thomas White.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo, the day after he held talks in Riyadh with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Blinken spoke with the Saudi crown prince and discussed “regional coordination to achieve an enduring end to the crisis in Gaza.” Blinken is hoping to shore up support for a truce deal hashed out in Paris in January but not yet signed off on by either Hamas or Israel.
EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell confirmed he was heading for Ukraine for a fourth time since Russia’s full-scale invasion. He repeated calls for more aid for the war-torn country.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has proposed extending martial law and general mobilization to the Ukrainian parliament for another 90 days. The martial law and general mobilization, which was first declared when Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, has been repeatedly extended since then.
Around 100 of the thousands of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine refuse to sign contracts with Russian nuclear company Rosatom, UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi told RFI radio.
Grossi said in the interview that he would examine any impact on operations at the plant, where the six reactors are in shutdown, when he visits it on Wednesday. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the plant says it will no longer grant these holdouts access to the site.
Russian election officials said they may disqualify anti-Ukraine war candidate Boris Nadezhdin from the ballot in next month’s presidential election due to irregularities with the public petition endorsing his candidacy.
The Central Election Commission declared 15% of the 105,000 signatures collected invalid, more than the 5% permitted under electoral rules.
Nadezhdin becomes the second candidate to face disqualification after independent Yekaterina Duntsova was barred by the electoral commission in December, citing 100 errors with her petition.
Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, said that Biden giving the nod to engage in conflicts in the Middle East was not in response to the deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Jordan but an attempt to boost his image.
We see in these ‘flex their muscles’ attempts, first of all, a desire to influence the domestic political landscape in America, a desire to somehow correct the disastrous image of the current American administration.
“It’s clear that American airstrikes are specifically, deliberately aimed to stoke the conflict,” said Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzia during a UN Security Council meeting. Russia had called for an emergency meeting.
China’s ambassador, Jun Zhang, similarly claimed that the “U.S. actions will certainly exacerbate the vicious cycle of tit-for-tat violence in the Middle East.”
The owner of Yandex, often referred to as “Russia’s Google,” has said it will pull out of its country of origin.
Its Dutch-based parent company sold the operation in Russia for 475 billion roubles ($5.2bn), much lower than its estimated market value. The sale to a consortium of investors means Yandex’s Russian business is now a fully Russian-owned entity.
The firm has previously been accused of hiding information about the war in Ukraine from the Russian public.
The U.S. looks to maintain its strong growth while China confronts a slowdown, leaving the world’s two largest economies on opposite trajectories as they shape the global order.
Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and a former International Monetary Fund official in charge of China, told Nikkei in a recent interview:
The likelihood of the prediction that China’s GDP will one day overtake that of the U.S. is declining.
The prices of lithium and nickel, key materials used in electric vehicle batteries, have nose-dived due to a sharp slowdown in growing demand in China.
Production facilities are shutting down due to worsening profitability. The output of lithium projects from countries like Chile has contributed to the glut of material.
Three-month nickel futures closed at $16,235 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange, down about 50% from the end of 2022.
When asked about China’s stance on inter-Korean relations during a regular press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China “noted” the situation, adding that Beijing “always supports the DPRK and the ROK in improving their relations.”
DPRK, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, refers to North Korea, while ROK, or the Republic of Korea, is the South.
Wang’s remarks came a few days after the South Korean government reaffirmed its position on respecting Beijing’s One China principle.
In a move to curb the global proliferation of commercial spyware, the United States has announced a comprehensive plan to restrict visas for abusers and manufacturers involved in the sale of encryption-busting malware, reported the Financial Times (FT).
The U.S. State Department revealed that the visa ban specifically targets manufacturers who derive “financial benefit” from selling military-grade spyware to countries engaged in its abuse.
Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen Pat Ryder said it would be fair to conclude that there likely were casualties associated with the U.S. airstrikes last week.
However, the U.S. is not aware of any Iranians being killed during the attacks, he said.
Ryder also said that the U.S. was going after terrorists with links to Iran’s IRGC and not fighters who are part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF is part of Iraq’s security forces.
Iran said it “will not hesitate” to respond in the event of U.S. attacks on its territory after the White House declined to say whether strikes on Iran were ruled out.
When asked whether the United States would rule out the possibility of striking Iran directly, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told NBC, “It would not be wise for me to talk about what we’re ruling in and ruling out.”
Iran confirmed it had commenced the construction of a new nuclear research reactor in the central city of Isfahan. According to state media outlet IRNA, the new 10-megawatt facility is being built to create a powerful neutron source.
The announcement comes days after Tehran announced it was constructing a nuclear power plant complex in the south. The rapid construction of nuclear facilities suggests that Iran was looking to enhance its nuclear weapons program – a proposition that may not go down well with the Western bloc.
The Egyptian pound experienced a significant appreciation, surging by 39 percent against the U.S. dollar in just a few days amidst a backdrop of uncertainty in the black market.
This dramatic rise brought the exchange rate of the U.S. currency down from 75 to 55 Egyptian pounds. This notable increase occurred as Egypt reached a pivotal agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to enhance its program from $3 billion to over $10 billion.
India has set in motion a building blitz at its oil refineries to raise production of traditional transport fuels such as gasoline and diesel, which could lift capacity by more than 20 percent over the next five years.
It’s a rare boost for a global refining industry that’s in a state of decline in the U.S. and Europe while China’s massive sector is adjusting to Beijing’s green goals. By contrast, India’s growing transport demand and the slower adoption of electric vehicles will keep the appetite for gasoline and diesel higher for longer.
Britain’s King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer and has begun treatment, Buckingham Palace said. The palace didn’t disclose what form of cancer the king has but said it’s not related to his recent treatment for a benign prostate condition.
Less than 18 months into his reign, the 75-year-old monarch will suspend public engagements but will continue with state business and won’t be handing over his constitutional role as head of state.
A Swedish study offers evidence that men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer by ramping up cardio exercise.
The research, published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, showed that men whose cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 3% or more annually over five years, on average, were 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer than men whose cardiorespiratory fitness declined by 3% annually. That was true regardless of men’s fitness levels when they started.
Republished with permission from TIPP Insights