If it turns out people did game the 2020 election, fair (and harsh) punishment is required (op-ed)

If it turns out people did game the 2020 election, fair (and
harsh) punishment is required (op-ed) 1

UNITED STATES – In sports, cheating is punished with disqualification. The offender is removed from the competition immediately. He is not given a time penalty equal to the time “stolen” by taking a shortcut in a race.

Lance Armstrong’s punishment for using performance-enhancing drugs while racing professionally was a lifetime ban on cycling and the disqualification of his competition results. One can no longer say Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times because those victories have been erased and given to the next in line.

So, why are we concerned with vote totals in the context of election fraud? If the Biden campaign directed, participated in, or ignored (and thus failed to prevent) election fraud, should not Biden and Harris be disqualified as candidates?

Do elections, which are far more consequential than sporting events, use a lesser standard?

In universities, cheating such as plagiarism is usually punished with a zero grade for the test. A common penalty for a second offense is a zero for the class, thus disqualifying all efforts to date, even on exams that may have been taken honestly.

A third offense can cause expulsion from the school. The equivalent in politics would be akin to disqualification, disbarment, and loss of voting rights.

Presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden has committed plagiarism on several well-documented occasions. When he was a student at Syracuse University Law School (ranked #111 in the country), he was punished for plagiarizing a full five pages of a published law review.

That is not a small amount of plagiarism, though Biden claimed it was “unintentional”. That excuse might be credible to those who have never been to university, but to those who have, it is like saying he accidentally piloted a 747 to Easter Island. Biden was penalized with a failing grade for the class. He had to retake the class a year later to graduate. 

Biden continued to cheat by plagiarizing others throughout his career as a politician. He knew the risk because he had been punished before. Therefore, he could not claim ignorance. But, as seen in the embedded video below, his apologies sound more like arguments against the idea that plagiarism is wrong. 

Biden was punished for cheating in law school. In politics, Biden’s plagiarism only affected his appeal to voters. No official body penalized him.

In school, plagiarism makes it impossible to determine whether the student grasps academic material well enough to justify a passing grade. It also projects a false image of competence. If it is not caught, it is possible that a substandard student will receive an unmerited grade. It is for those reasons that penalties for plagiarism in academia are severe.

In politics, plagiarism has similar effects. It disguises the candidate’s competence, knowledge, credibility, and honesty. If it is not caught, it raises the possibility that an undeserving candidate will win based on false information provided by the candidate.

Biden’s plagiarism on the election trail in past elections may have projected a false image of competence and accomplishment. For instance, his claim he had earned three degrees, a full scholarship, and graduated at the top of his class were later proven false.

Voters may have concluded that Biden was more competent than he was based on those false claims. That claim could have decided their votes in his favor. Therefore, falsehoods are not irrelevant to election outcomes. They are, however, insignificant compared to the election fraud alleged to have occurred in the 2020 election.

According to Sidney Powell, an attorney on President Trump’s legal team, election fraud in the 2020 election was planned. It required significant numbers of collaborators, infrastructure, and money to pull off. As alleged, it likely could not have been done without the knowledge of the Biden campaign, if not Biden himself.

Unlike small-scale voter fraud, where tens or hundreds of votes are affected, the election fraud alleged by Powell and others affected millions of votes. According to them, SmartMatic ballot-counting software was manipulated to weight votes in Biden’s favor. 

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It is possible to be the unwitting beneficiary of a fraud or crime, such as when a bank robber donates crime proceeds to charity. In those cases, the beneficiary is not responsible for criminal wrongdoing, but that does not entitle them to retain stolen goods. Any stolen property would be confiscated and returned to the proper owner.

When election fraud is conducted without the knowledge or approval of a candidate, the “stolen goods” are votes. If the fraud is discovered, the votes are taken back or confiscated, as would happen with stolen property or money. The candidate would not be held criminally liable. The adjusted election results would stand, and life would go on.

For the 2020 election, full and honest recounts are required to determine how many votes were stolen. Knowing the number of stolen votes is necessary to determine whether enough fraudulent votes were cast to affect the election outcome.

It would also allow election officials to reconcile their certified voting results for each state. Returning votes lost to Trump and removing votes fraudulently added to Biden’s total must be done, but it may be an inadequate remedy for the alleged offenses.

Election fraud lawsuits filed in various states in the past week allege wrongdoing implicating Biden’s campaign. Biden himself may have taken part in the fraud, though that has not yet been alleged. It would not be a surprise, given his initial denials of responsibility for initiating the fraudulent investigation of General Michael Flynn, later disproven by evidence. It is not as if Biden has been honest about his wrongdoing in the past.

Recently, Carrollton, Texas mayoral candidate Zul Mirza Mohamed was indicted for 109 counts of voter fraud. He was alleged to have arranged to collect ballots from a nursing home by fraudulent means. Acting on a complaint from the nursing home, police found the missing ballots in Mohamed’s possession and arrested him.

It is not unheard of to indict a candidate for voter fraud, but Biden’s situation is different. 

The difference between Mohamed and Biden is that Mohamed appears to have personally executed each step of his plan to cast fraudulent votes. Even if Biden’s campaign orchestrated a much larger election fraud, it is possible that their many surrogates allow Biden to remain outside the sphere of culpability.

He may be the intended beneficiary of fraud, but if he did not directly participate. The only penalty may be that he loses the fraudulent votes. If that occurs, he will likely lose the 2020 presidential election, but would not be barred from campaigning for elected office later.

However, this election is resolved. It has highlighted a serious weakness in election law. Candidates have little incentive to curtail fraud on their behalf, so long as they can claim ignorance.

Ignorance of the law is not a defense in cases where malicious intent is obvious, such as firing a gun in the direction of a crowd. However, it can be when it comes to the ever-changing tide of election regulations. 

One might go joyriding on a manatee without realizing it is illegal, but one does not manipulate vote totals using illicit ballot-counting software without knowing fraud is being committed. If proven, Biden should bear some responsibility and suffer a penalty that is much greater than losing fraudulent votes cast for him.

At the least, he should be treated the same as he was when he plagiarized five pages of material in law school. He should lose more than votes identified as fraudulent, but all votes.

There is precedent for this in America. In 1994, widespread Democrat voter fraud in a Pennsylvania state senate race was remedied by judicial order. Judge Clarence C. Newcomer invalidated the vote and awarded the election to Republican challenger, Bruce S. Marks. The reason was that the incumbent Democrat had “stolen the election.”

With that in mind, what matters here is whether vote tallies were manipulated in software and whether Biden or his campaign staff participated in the fraud. If so, the number of fraudulent votes is irrelevant because the only number that counts is zero.

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