Campaigns/Elections

Meddling in the Ballot Box

As long as there have been American elections, foreign powers have sought to influence them.

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As long as there have been American elections, foreign powers have sought to influence them. George Washington and John Adams were targeted by French revolutionaries during 1796, and Nazi Germany tried to undermine President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's reelection campaigns.

Dov H. Levin, a professor of international relations at the University of Hong Kong and the author of Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventionsaccepts as fact that powerful governments will intervene in other nations' elections for strategic purposes. America has certainly done plenty meddling of its own, mostly during the Cold War (significant interventions in Argentina and Guatemala get special attention here), with a mixed track record of success.

Yet intervening in foreign elections is less common than you might expect. The risks are high and the rewards often elusive. Trying to futz with an election is unnecessary if you can rely on the usual diplomatic channels to get what you want, Levin concludes.

Still, even marginal influence can have an effect. Without the media attention generated from leaked emails and other documents attributed to Russian interference, Levin believes Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 popular vote by an extra 2 percent over Donald Trump—enough to win the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, along with a few others. Though Russia's meddling "has frequently been described in the public discourse utilizing various synonyms to the word 'unprecedented,'" Levin writes, "that is far from being the case."

The 2020 election had plenty of weird twists and controversial turns, but thankfully the controversies seem to be largely domestic. There's something unsettling about foreign election meddling—which can be particularly destabilizing if it reduces public trust in the ability of election officials to run clean contests, even if it is also inevitable.

NEXT: Brickbat: Professional Courtesy

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  3. Well, foreign interference is a thing of the past – the 2020 election was the most secure election ever in the history of the country. It was certified by the same expert who was unaware that hundreds of companies and government agencies had been infiltrated by the SolarWinds hack, but that’s ok – he has now been hired by them to get to the bottom of this thing that he didn’t even know about back when he was working for the government.

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  5. Without the media attention generated from leaked emails and other documents attributed to Russian interference, Levin believes Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 popular vote by an extra 2 percent over Donald Trump—enough to win the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, along with a few others.

    Which is ironic, given that the largest part of proven Russian interference was the “dossier” paid for by Hillary Clinton. And boy, did that pay off in spades.

  6. Lol. Holy fucking shit. A book review on election gaslighting. Russia changed 2016, 2020 cleanest ever.

    God damn youre fucking dumb Boehm.

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  7. US has a long history of interfering in foreign elections… Presumably using the CIA and the State Department.

    But how long is the history of interfering in US elections? How often has the CIA and State department interfered in elections here in the United States?

    Is that more or less concerning than a foreign power buying some Facebook memes?

    1. US has a long history of interfering in foreign elections… Presumably using the U.S. Department of Agriculture CIA and the State Department.

      The CIA is a fine, upstanding organization who would never interfere in a democratic election.

  8. “Without the media attention generated from leaked emails and other documents attributed to Russian interference…”

    Yep, there’s that darned media contradicting the party line, and just begging to be restrained.

    1. Yes, how exactly did Mr. Levin determine that the documents leaked by the Russians affected two percent of the vote? And how did he determine that the extra 2% would have been in those key states as opposed to, say, padding an extra 2% to Clinton’s margin in states that were already squarely in her corner?

      1. There are general rules that are applied here. That a Democrat need to be so many points over in the popular vote to be successful in the EC. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with only 2.8M while Joe Biden won the popular vote by almost 7M. This translated to him winning the EC.

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        2. …That a Democrat need to be so many points over in the popular vote to be successful in the EC. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with only 2.8M while Joe Biden won the popular vote by almost 7M. This translated to him winning the EC…”

          Pulled that right out of your ass, didn’t you?

  9. “As long as there have been American elections, foreign powers have sought to influence them. George Washington and John Adams were targeted by French revolutionaries during 1796…”

    True, Eric, but you left out the more important point: It was fear of French “interference” in American elections, and fear that the Jeffersonian Republicans were “colluding” with them, that led to the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts, now widely considered one of the greatest assaults on civil liberties in American history. A cautionary point here that we should all bear in mind.

  10. That foreign nations will interfere is inevitable, but must be always called out and responded to. Trumps most appalling statements were his willingness to say he would accept foreign help. This should have been called out more.

    1. “…Trumps most appalling statements were his willingness to say he would accept foreign help…”

      Cit missing and always will be.

  11. Wait, so you’re saying that Hong Kong interfered with the election and got Biden elected? I knew it! It’s like 2016 day jah voodoo all over again.

  12. In 1960, lots of priests – whose boss is the boss of a country known as Vatican City – told their parishioners to vote for JFK. Still, Nixon would have prevailed except for a five o’clock shadow and that he didn’t have the balls to tackle vote fraud.

  13. This is so funny coming from Boehm; Who needs to worry about “Foreign” election meddling with “Open Borders” it’ll ALL BE largely domestic… Domestic Foreigners.

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  15. Noted BLM’er Ben Sasse: “The insurrection was not a protest gone awry or the work of a few bad apples. It is the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice!” TAP ON HERE USA JOB INFO

  16. “America has certainly done plenty meddling of its own, mostly during the Cold War”

    What propagandistic bullshit.

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