Two ingredients drove the outcome in the 2020 elections: First, private philanthropy injected into government election offices and, second, a banana-republic style suspension of agreed-upon election rules. You didn't need much outright voter fraud when these two ingredients combined to poison the 2020 election. (Image source: iStock)
After the last election, many of us hoped for a champion to undo voter fraud, that certain thing that drove President Donald Trump from office. A "Kraken." A powerful force of nature, a metaphor of strength, rising from the depths, restorative of truth and proper process. And unlike the Kraken of legend and Hollywood, a purported force of good.
Failure to understand the complex architecture and confusing events of the 2020 election makes it more likely that something like it will happen again. Indeed, the destabilizing forces at work in 2020 are emboldened by their success. The philanthropic streams of money that fueled the 2020 outcome still exist. They are looking toward 2022 midterm elections to do it all over again.
That is why it is important to understand the complex mechanics that steered the outcome in 2020, so they do not happen again, so they do not further destabilize our political process.
Two ingredients drove the outcome in 2020: First, private philanthropy injected into government election offices and, second, a banana-republic style suspension of agreed-upon election rules. You didn't need much outright voter fraud when these two ingredients combined to poison the 2020 election.
First, ponder the private philanthropy. The most lethal poison injected in the 2020 election was essentially legal. It worked like this.
In the months before the 2020 elections, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). Prior to Zuckerberg's largess, CTCL had an annual budget around $600,000 per year. 2020 would be a very good year for them.
The CTCL took "ZuckBucks" and with extreme, strategic precision, re-granted it to thousands of government election officials to "help" them conduct the 2020 election. It converted election offices in key jurisdictions with deep reservoirs of Biden votes into Formula One turnout-machines.
It is true that some small red counties got some CTCL money, but that was a fig leaf. Red counties took their grants and bought printers or paper. The real action was in the big cities, where hundreds of millions of dollars running through election offices fueled a ground game that, before 2020, the Democratic Party could only dream about.
Consider Philadelphia. Philadelphia's annual election office budget was about $9.5 million. The CTCL gave Philadelphia $10 million in one burst in the summer of 2020 to spend by election day. And boy did Philadelphia spend the money. They hired new city employees -- fresh from local activist groups -- to go door to do and deliver ballots. Since they worked for the election office, everything was "legal." They bought radio advertising on Spanish and urban radio stations; "get out the vote, vote by mail, no need for any witnesses anymore!"
The government election office in Philadelphia used that $10 million grant to implement a dream of some partisans: turn a government election office into a massive turnout machine.
But wait, isn't this illegal?
Who says so? For starters, you are free to be as stupid as you want and give the government your money. There is no prohibition on that, except in the states that have since banned it, but more on that later. Second, the Philadelphia government spending spree didn't mention the word Democrat. It didn't mention Biden. It didn't need to.
It's obvious. A facially impartial and hyper-funded campaign to turn out votes in Philadelphia, will end up turning out votes for Joe Biden, and that is precisely what happened. Neutral actions, wholly lacking any facial partisan taint, were hyper-fueled with philanthropic dollars to turn out record numbers of voters in Philadelphia.
They just happened to nearly all vote for Joe Biden, and no matching effort was conducted in red counties. You could not convert dollars in sparsely populated counties into turnout machines the same way you could in concentrated urban cores.
And it wasn't just Philadelphia. It was the surrounding deep-blue counties of Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks. They also received massive CTCL grants. And it wasn't just eastern Pennsylvania. The same model was deployed in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Lansing, Milwaukee, Madison, Atlanta, Phoenix and urban cores across the USA.
By now you should be getting the picture. By now you can see their diabolical genius.
Understanding this architecture explains so many other parts of the 2020 election. For example, it explains the urban turnout explosion. Trump had unprecedented support among black voters. But so what? Trump's 15% of the black vote in Detroit was swamped in absolute terms because turnout there soared by 92,891votes. Trump even had 20% of the black vote in Atlanta but overall DeKalb's turnout soared by 54,550 votes -- 80% were opposed.
The more urban turnout, the bigger the Biden win.
This also explains the record number of undervotes. City employees in Philadelphia delivering ballots to be voted at the front door didn't have time to worry about down-ballot races. Who cares about dogcatcher when you have a bigger mission? That is precisely why undervotes were so common in places where CTCL money was saturating the ground game. Get the oval next to "Biden" filled in, move on to the next front door, repeat, all of it perfectly legal.
The CTCL money did not fund voting integrity systems. It only funded a massive ground game to harvest blue ballots. It built processes to get those ballots distributed in urban cores, voted, and back in to be counted.
Mission accomplished. CTCL fueled a ground game that got the result it set out to get. And who are you to complain, after all, because it was rooted in increasing urban turnout. You wouldn't dare complain about increased turnout, would you? The plan had the side benefit of silencing critics.
Did this plan go unnoticed? A few of us noticed this architecture spooling up in the spring, and warned about it. But most of the country was focused elsewhere, including the campaign. It is disappointing to have seen it coming. Now, after the fact, some states are fixing the problem and banning private money to government election offices.
They should ban it. Florida, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Iowa have prohibited election offices from receiving private money. In the old days, we might refer to this sort of behavior as bribery of government officials. The CTCL attached strings to their grants: that is the problem.
Now the second big ingredient that completes the architecture that explains the outcome of the 2020 elections: banana-republic style suspension of the rules based on COVID.
All across America, leftists and Democrats -- some of the same leftists who helped cook up the Zuckbucks scheme -- were suing states to break down rules and laws.
Remember, election laws are enacted ahead of time for a reason -- so we can all agree on the rules before the game. In Monopoly, the price of Boardwalk shouldn't drop below $400 just because I land on it and want it for $20. Following rules provides confidence that the process was fair, even to the losers of an election.
That did not happen in 2020, and all across the nation, especially in swing states, the rules were thrown out in the name of an emergency. In Nevada, the state rushed to all of the mail-in ballots being sent automatically, even though the Public Interest Legal Foundation had documented tens of thousands of dead registrants, vacant lots and commercial addresses on the voter rolls.
Other states suspended their laws: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona, North Carolina, and more.
In Virginia, the law said that mail ballots had to come in by election day or three days after election day, but only if they were postmarked by election day. Virginia state election officials ignored the law and issued rules to accept late ballots without any postmark. They called it "fair."
In response, I brought a lawsuit on behalf of county election officials who alleged that the Virginia Constitution's anti-suspension clause was violated. George Mason authored this limit on government power, saying that the executive cannot change the laws the legislature wrote. That one of our nation's founders included such a provision speaks to the wisdom of those giants from over two centuries ago.
A Virginia court struck down the bureaucrat's guidance and ordered that any late ballots had to have a postmark. In other states, the outcomes were not so positive. State and federal courts across the country were quick to capitulate to suspensions of election laws because of COVID.
In Philadelphia, these two ingredients – Zuckbucks and banana-republic style lawlessness, combined over and over again. COVID litigation forced the city to open new voting centers where people could roll in and vote with mail-in ballots in contravention of regular Pennsylvania law. Guess who helped pay for this new expense: That's right -- Zuckbucks. But because the new centers were not part of the law, observers were not allowed in to watch, as they are in normal voting precincts. Because the voting centers were created on the COVID fly, election officials did what they pleased, and banned everyone from observing the process.
Across the country, states abandoned rules related to witnesses' signatures, to who can vote by mail, and to what has to be done to validate a mail ballot. City employees roamed door to door with armfuls of blank ballots, knocking and pushing people at home to vote in a process entirely foreign to state laws. Ballots were collected and delivered by others who had been strictly banned from touching someone else's ballot before COVID. Over and over, the rules broke down.
Let me be clear, there was voter fraud in 2020. But this time, it was bigger than voter fraud. This time, it moved hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of votes. In no election in my experience has voter fraud ever moved that many votes. This toxic 2020 plan was bigger, and more stealthy -- and largely legal. After all, how is it illegal if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders it?
Most of all, it requires you to get smart about how election process works to begin to understand it.
Airplane accidents rarely have one cause. Usually a series of failures combine to create a catastrophe. Without one, the catastrophe does not occur.
The 2020 election was similar. Alone, all of the COVID changes might not have collapsed the process. But COVID-justified suspensions of the rules were matched with a $350 million-dollar ground game from a partisan philanthropist. These dollars fueled the bodies that rushed into the legal gaps created by COVID. The two ingredients combined to break down all of the guardrails.
The election of 2020 was, in fact, a free for all. You did not need voting machines controlled from outer space, or a centralized conspiracy to commit voter fraud, to get the outcome we got. You do not need fraud when you have almost 100,000 new voters turning out in Detroit. A billionaire and a banana-republic style breakdown of the law can go a long way to driving someone out of the White House.
J. Christian Adams is President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former attorney in the United States Justice Department Voting Section. President Trump appointed him to both his commission on election integrity and to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, where he continues to serve.