Magazine December 31, 2020, Issue

‘It Must Have Been Stolen’

Protesting the presidential-election results in Salem, Ore., November 7, 2020 (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
Debunking a myth

How can you spot a stolen election? Maybe just as important, how can you spot an election that isn’t stolen? You can never be entirely certain when the margins are fairly close, which is why stolen-election theories hold a natural attraction for conspiracy-minded partisans. But in terms of evidence, there are three signs to look for that might show that an election’s outcome was the result of fraud by voters or election officials: (1) direct evidence of illegally counted or discounted votes, (2) evidence of an unlawful process, and (3) anomalous results that make sense only if the election was

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