“Evaluating a New Generation of Expansive Claims about Vote Manipulation”

Justin Grimmer, Michael Herron and Michael Tyler in ELJ. Abstract:

In the wake of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a cottage industry of conspiracy theorists has advanced ever more expansive claims of vote manipulation, going so far as to allege that all American elections are subject to manipulation—even in largely Republican states. In the extreme, these conspiracy theorists argue that candidates in U.S. elections are selected rather than elected. We evaluate two recent sets of claims about vote manipulation that allege algorithms are used to shift votes towards preferred candidates. Even though these claims are distinct, they fail for similar reasons. For example, both sets of claims assert that “unnaturally” accurate predictions of election results are evidence of vote manipulation, an allegation that is a result of predicting a variable with itself. Furthermore, both claims make easily refuted errors in logic and data analysis and in addition misrepresent historical election patterns. While recent claims about vote manipulation are prima facie outlandish, their effects on policy and the public are real. Refuting false claims about vote manipulation is essential to ensuring the continued functioning of U.S. elections and American democracy more generally

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