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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Holding Democracy at Gunpoint

Trump populism, entrenched partisanship, and an unstoppable Coronavirus created the perfect storm for democracy's ultimate stress-test.

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On the subject of voter-fraud: Institutional media and big-tech approach “voter-fraud” from a classic P.R angle. These print and digital gatekeepers use a qualifier when dismissing allegations of voter fraud. The qualifier they use is “widespread,” as in “there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.” At face value, this statement is accurate. Historically, in national elections, rampant voter-fraud at-scale has been extremely rare. But on the local and state level, voter fraud is a much bigger problem. In Texas alone, 150 people have been charged with voter fraud since 2004. What the media is really implying when referring to “widespread voter fraud” is that there is no evidence of a grand conspiracy to undermine the 2020 presidential election. While true in regards to grand conspiracy, by dismissing, or failing to adequately cover all legitimate claims/evidence of voter fraud, news organizations are actively contributing to the erosion of trust in journalism.

On the subject of Russia and Ukraine: The lion’s share of analysis in this article is directly related to the presidential election on November 3rd, 2020. However, both Democrats and Republicans have sought to frame the 2020 election as the culmination of the Russiagate scandal and subsequent Russia and Ukraine investigations. While it’s undeniable that hostility stemming from Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election has had a lasting impact, there is little evidence that Russia or any other country materially influenced the 2020 election.

Leading up to any presidential election, political writers, pundits, observers, supporters, and detractors of democracy will undoubtedly spend inordinate amounts of time discussing and rehashing any number of far-out scenarios that might occur as a result of the vote. We call this kind of hypothetical commentary “speculation.” But of all the speculation proceeding an election, there is one kind of theoretical hypothesizing that consistently elicits horror while simultaneously capturing our imagination before said speculation is quickly dismissed as a Chicken-Little-Esque absurdity. “No, the sky is not falling,” we tell ourselves while dismissing the possibility of presidential election doomsday scenarios.

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Graphic image of battleground states yet to be called in the 2020 presidential election. Image courtesy of Clay Banks.

These worst-case scenarios are presented similarly (nearly-identically, ironically) by Democratic and Republican pundits. Both sides of the aisle present the fantastical possibility of election day mayhem as the ultimate purpose of a power-grabbing “authoritarian” or a “deep-state” bogeyman or bogeywoman respectively. Every four years, leading up to a presidential election, the political pundits proclaiming gloom and doom and the inevitability of a falling sky have our ear in a vice. And every four years (or after two-terms) there is always, like clockwork, a smooth transition of power. Come January and the swearing-in of a new president, we all breathe a collective sigh of relief–the American experiment has survived another scrape with death. 

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013.

There are a number of physical and social structures built into the American electoral system that have provided security, election after election, for centuries. Tangible installations such as the voting booth, the college of electors, and consistently reliable state-run voting infrastructures have given Americans confidence in our elections. Intangible social structures such as an electorate that have (historically) espoused faith in the democratic process and candidates that commit to accepting the result of an election are effectively the glue holding this democracy together. 

But in 2020, the American electoral system is facing its ultimate test. President Trump’s polarizing persona and the inability of Republican candidates to secure a popular vote majority have led many Democrats to question the democratic process. And in equal measure, Progressive Democratic lawmakers and state officials have consistently pushed policies and language that disenfranchises moderate voters on both sides of the aisle. That disenfranchisement, coupled with a Democratic push to expand voting rights and access to an all-you-can-eat buffet of relatively untested voting apparatus has added to deep mistrust in the voting process by Republicans. 

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Supporters of President Trump at 2020 campaign event in Wildwood, NJ. Image courtesy of David Todd McCarty.

Now, with November 3rd behind us, the odds of a quick resolution to the 2020 presidential election have plummeted. While Biden’s stock continues to rise, consensus in either candidate’s ascendancy to the executive and confidence in a smooth transition of power has all but evaporated. America is looking down the barrel of democracy-killing Peacemakers, Colt Single Action Armys drawn by partisan kingpins that never blink. 

State of the Race Today

Biden is on track to capture a majority of votes in the remaining battleground states of Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Including Georgia, Biden’s first count Electoral College total will run 306, skating past the 270 votes needed to claim the presidency. Trump is positioned to claim North Carolina outright, bringing his first-count electoral total to 239. Wisconsin and Georgia are prepping for recounts, and other states, namely Arizona and possibly North Carolina may follow suit.

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Presidential candidate Joe Biden at rally in Clear Lake, Iowa. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

In a year that saw the highest voter turnout in United States history, the margins of victory in the aforementioned battleground states, as well as Michigan and Wisconsin, are historically low. These anorexically-slim margins, a cornucopia of new voter rules, and the current state of take-no-prisoners American politics have created the perfect storm for what may become a defining chapter in U.S. democracy. 

Trump’s Legal Strategy

Before the election, President Trump proclaimed multiple times that he would pursue legal action if he felt the election results were “unfair” or that “the election was stolen.” On Election night, Trump followed through on his threat of legal action by submitting challenges in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin. 

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President Donald J. Trump (left), and First Lady Melania Trump (center left), walk with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Omar Jones IV (right), commanding general, U.S. Army Military District of Washington near the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2020.

Strengthening Trump’s position, any states that undergo a recount are opening themselves up to additional legal action if significant inconsistencies in the vote tallies are uncovered. While Wisconsin and Georgia are already gearing up for recounts, if the margins remain narrow in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, we may see additional recounts.

Any election scenario with recounts in more than one state inevitably sets the stage for exponentially greater legal action. Also, if the remaining battleground states in play swing to Trump, it’s widely understood that Biden’s team would be forced to pursue legal remedies of their own–if the election came down to it. 

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(Closeup) of image featuring President Donald J. Trump (left), and First Lady Melania Trump (right), near the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2020.

Notable Trump Cases Pending

The legal cases referenced below are a selection of dozens in the works or in some stage of review. None of the cases have yielded any major victories for Trump but they serve as guideposts to ascertain the direction Trump’s legal team intends to take their fight. 

Pennsylvania: Trump is supporting a Pennsylvania Republican effort filed with the Supreme Court. This case was summarized by the New York Times as, “an order that would force election officials in Pennsylvania to separate mail ballots that arrived after Election Day from other mailed ballots. In its emergency application, the party acknowledged that the secretary of state’s office had already ordered election officials to do so but said it had no way to know if they had complied.”

Georgia: Trump’s campaign claims “a Republican poll observer in Chatham County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Savannah, witnessed late ballots being illegally added to a stack of on-time absentee ballots.” Reported by Bloomberg News

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08 November 2020. Supporters of Biden take to the streets to show their support in Washington DC. Image courtesy of Gayatri Malhotra.

Nevada: Trump’s campaign and legal team are seeking to invalidate several thousand ballots that one Nevada voter claimed might have been ineligibly counted.  As reported by Time Magazine, “The Trump campaign held a press conference on Nov. 5 introducing Jill Stokey, a Nevada voter who claimed that when she tried to cast a ballot, she was told someone had already cast a mail-in ballot in her name. She alleged that the signature verification technology used in Clark County, the most populous county in the state, enabled someone to cast a mail-in ballot in her name. Her lawsuit asserted, without evidence, that “lax procedures for authenticating mail ballots” had resulted in “over 3,000 instances of ineligible individuals casting ballots.”

Pennsylvania: Trump’s legal team has filed suit alleging that the “two-tracked system” by which in-person and mail-in voters are held to different standards is a violation of the Constitution. Namely, the Trump legal team alleges that the “two-tracked system” results in two Constitutional violations: 1) Equal Protection Clause violation, and 2) Elections and Electors Clauses violation.

18 June, 2020. Black Lives Matter protesters gather in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Chris Henry.

Michigan and Pennsylvania: A new lawsuit filed on November 9th by the Trump legal team takes a different tact. According to the Wall Street Journal, instead of having votes thrown out that may have been counted improperly or fraudulently, the lawyers are “suing to stop state officials from finalizing results due to fraud allegations in Michigan and limits imposed on poll observers in Pennsylvania.”

Notable Biden Cases Pending

Although no official orders have been issued by former Vice President Joe Biden to pursue legal recourse, a number of opportunities could soon present themselves. Chief among possible legal cases is one involving the General Services Administration.

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10 August 2019. Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

General Services Administration: Biden is threatening legal action against the General Services Administration for not making a declaration of “ascertainment.” Since Biden has adopted the posture of Presidential winner, he has been working tirelessly to build out his presumptive transition team.

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Behind the scenes photograph from a Biden Campaign press conference in 2020.

However, without approval from the GSA, which has not recognized him as the winner, Biden cannot proceed with basic logistical steps such as setting up office space for staff in DC, etc. The GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has given no sign to the Biden campaign that they will receive official approval anytime soon. Reported by Axios on November 9th.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue meets with the General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy, at the USDA headquarters, in Washington, D.C, on June 3, 2019. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Notable Accounts/Evidence of Voter Fraud

HEADLINE is providing access to first-hand accounts/sworn affidavits from poll workers, postal workers, etc that are willing to testify under oath that they witnessed significant voter fraud. HEADLINE has not independently verified the claims purported, certifying only that the affidavits are true, legal documents.

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Illustration of a shredded ballot by Morning Brew.

Raymond T. Stewart: A sworn affidavit by a 30-plus year veteran Texas Peace Officer was submitted to the Harris County, Houston District Attorney’s Office on Thursday, October 15, 2020.

Jessy Jacob: Detroit elections worker has alleged that she “directly observed” fellow election workers in the city coach voters to cast their ballots for Joe Biden, according to a new affidavit.

Costantino and McCall: Two eyewitnesses, Cheryl A. Costantino and Edward P. McCall, Jr. submitted sworn affidavits accounting instances of voter fraud in Wayne County, Michigan. The affidavits allege numerous criminal activities on account of election officials. 

Richard Hopkins: A Pennsylvania mail carrier released a sworn affidavit that he was ordered by supervisors to collect and submit late ballots, which he said supervisors then backdated so that they appeared to have been mailed in time. Richard Hopkins’ case has taken some very dramatic twists and turns over the last few days, summarized below.

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11 November 2020. Screenshot of Richard Hopkins, USPS mail carrier at the center of snowballing Pennsylvania mail scandal.

  • First, President Trump approached Attorney General Barr with the Hopkins affidavit and other purported pieces of evidence supporting claims of voter fraud.
  • AG Barr subsequently granted approval to Justice Department officials to investigate any substantial claims of voter fraud.
  • Then on November 11th, The Washington Post claimed “A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations, according to three officials briefed on the investigation and a statement from a House congressional committee.”
  • The New York Times also reported “(that Hopkins had) “completely” recanted allegations that a supervisor was “tampering with mail-in ballots” after investigators questioned him, the inspector general’s office said, according to the Democratic leadership of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.”
  • But only hours later, a video was released by Project Veritas refuting the Washington Post’s purported recantment. In the video, Hopkins addresses The Washington Post directly, demanding that the Post issue a recantment of their article covering his alleged recantment.

HEADLINE Documents

The voter fraud affidavits referenced in this article are available below. To reiterate once more, the claims of voter fraud in these documents have not been independently verified by HEADLINE.

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Points of Concern For Democrats

In Pennsylvania and other states, Republican “watchers” were barred access to voting counting centers. Senior Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Trump affiliate Corey Lewandowski are calling for all votes counted without watchers present to be thrown out.

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13 March 2020. Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi (D) with Irish Ambassador Taoiseach Varakar outside the US Capitol.

If (and that’s a big if) a case involving watcher-removal reaches the Supreme Court, with Trump’s newly-minted conservative majority, it is a very real possibility that some of those votes could be thrown out. According to Business Insider,

“Experts agree that Trump’s most likely path to challenge the electoral process in court runs through Pennsylvania. Indeed, the Trump campaign has already filed a motion to intervene in a Supreme Court case over how ballots are counted.”

Also, multiple states have implemented new voter rules/practices/procedures that might have violated existing state voter laws. Trump’s team will call for all of these votes to be thrown out as well. 

Points of Concern For Republicans

If Biden’s election results get certified at the state level, launching any kind of efficient legal strategy will prove incredibly difficult. Biden is currently on track to win the election on first count. Also, existing laws in many states allow for “cured ballots.” States allow voters to fix issues that might’ve resulted in their ballots being thrown out, even after Election Day.

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11 March 2020. Minority Leader Kevin Mccarthy (R) with Bakersfield Fire Department.

If Trump pursues legal action in any case where existing law is being followed, such a move will be perceived by Democrats as the ultimate affront to democracy and the democratic process. A strong argument that Democrats have for the disparity in voting results is essentially that Trump discouraged his base from early voting while Biden encouraged it. This will be a primary argument by Democratic legal teams in any of these state lawsuits. 

To summarize, the 2020 presidential election is fast-becoming the runaway train political junkies have been foreboding for years. A perfect storm of Trump populism, entrenched partisanship, and an unstoppable Coronavirus has swung the door wide open on the (possibility) of a democracy-breaking event unfolding. Trump’s legal challenges will drag on into December, if not longer. Biden’s transition team will be stonewalled until the court battles are over. If the transition process grinds into January, the United States federal government may be forced to pull the crème de la crème of all circuit-breakers–swearing-in Nancy Pelosi as interim President.

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4 February 2020. President Donald Trump refuses to shake Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi’s hand prior to his State of The Union Address.

At this stage, no matter the outcome, a majority of Americans will feel cheated out of a fair democratic election. So cheated in fact, that a significant portion of the population may completely lose their faith in the electoral process, choosing instead to rely on increasingly extreme measures to advance their party’s interests. And that eventuality–widespread loss of faith in election integrity–would be the ultimate 5-alarm fire for an electorate that never blinks, that never concedes, ready and willing to hold democracy at gunpoint.

Unbiased journalism is not dead. But it’s on life-support.

Here at HEADLINE, we believe everyone deserves equal access to unbiased news. That’s why we decided to keep HEADLINE journalism free for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they pay. If you can, support HEADLINE from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

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