Click to view If you're freaking out with worry over whether tomorrow's U.S. election will be rigged, don't worry. It will be. American elections are always rigged to some extent, but the tampering is almost never enough to alter the final outcome. Still, Americans are pansies when it comes to rigging ballots — at least, compared to our greatest science fiction heroes, who have a long and proud history of tying democracy into knots you'd need a million nanoprobes to untwist. Hacking voting machines? Registering Yoda to vote? Bah. That's nothing. Here's how your heroes do it. Get a Cylon to steal some ballots. When President Roslin was about to lose the election to Gaius Baltar, she decided desperate times called for under-handed measures. She gave her aide, the secret Cylon Tory Foster, permission to steal a box of ballots and replace them. It would have worked, but for the eagle-eyed Felix Gaeta and the uncharacteristically squeamish Bill Adama.
Kill the other candidate in a virtual world. It worked for the Doctor, in the Doctor Who story "The Deadly Assassin." To make a long story short, the Doctor put himself forward as a candidate for the presidency of his home planet, Gallifrey, to escape from trumped up charges of murdering the last president. The Doctor won the election by default — because during the campaign, he took some time out to meet up with his opponent in the Matrix, a virtual dreamscape, and slaughter him ruthlessly. (Serves the guy right for being named Chancellor Goth. What's next? Mayor Emo?) The Doctor didn't actually claim the presidency until a year later, when he decided the best way to prevent an invasion of Gallifrey was by helping the invaders take over, and THEN defeating them. Despite being the only president to turn his inauguration into a party for marauding tinfoil monsters, the Doctor was popular enough that the Gallifreyans begged him to take office again.
Brainwash everybody in the country via telepathic satellite. It worked for the Master, the Doctor's nemesis, on Doctor Who. Maybe because the Master was so impressed by the Doctor's election-stealing prowess, the Master stepped up his game and got himself elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, thanks to the Archangel satellite network broadcasting pro-Master messages into people's brains.
Brainwash everybody in the country via telephone. Satellite too high-tech for you? There's always Ma Bell. That's what worked for Tempus, an escaped alien psychopath, who came to Earth under the fake name John Doe and ran for president in Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. Tempus used his amazing alien technology to control everyone's minds via telephone, making everyone think he was a "darn nice guy." Everybody voted for him — except those telephone-hating Amish people. Replace both candidates with green slimy aliens. As various commenters pointed out, I somehow forgot to include Kang and Kodos in my roundup — how could I have forgotten them? Finally, two candidates who behave with a modicum of decency and respect towards each other. So what if they're evil monster guys? What are you going to do — vote for a third-party candidate? Oh, and they're from the Simpsons.
Hit everybody in the country with an Acid trip. It sort of worked for the Brotherhood of Dada, enemies of the Doom Patrol. Their leader, Mr. Nobody, decided to run for president, and harnessed the power of Number None, who's a hallucinogenic bicycle linked to the discovery of LSD. (This was when writer Grant Morrison was doing a LOT of drugs, I think.) The Brotherhood traveled around the country in a psychedelic bus, causing acid trips, and finally went on television to spread the Dada message. Something similar worked for Max Frost in the campy 1968 movie Wild In The Streets — he got elected president partly by spiking the D.C. water supply with LSD. When he won in a landslide, he passed a new law saying everyone over 30 had to live in retirement homes and do LSD every day. Far out, baby!
Discover a parallel world which solves all our problems. In the Philip K. Dick novel The Crack In Space, Jim Briskin is running to be the first black president of the United States — in 2080. (That's optimism for you.) Briskin's campaign gets a tremendous boost when a gateway opens to a parallel Earth, where humans never evolved. It's the perfect solution to the overpopulation problem, and Briskin capitalizes on it. (This one's a bit iffy, but I still like it.) Manipulate probability itself to make the improbable happen. In the Justice League of America comic, Dr. Julian September split seven photons, and discovered that he'd managed to destroy their synchronicity, allowing him to manipulate probability to his liking. Among other things, this allowed him to become president of the United States and win a Nobel Prize. Eventually the Justice League found those photons and rejoined them.
Use telepathy. In Marvel's New Universe comics, a supervillain known as Philip Nolan Voigt, aka Overshadow, used his telepathic abilities to be come the president of the United States in the 1988 election. His running mate? A mind-controlled puppet Mike Dukakis. (Probably the only way Dukakis could look presidential, actually.) Disguise a whole bunch of candidates as one candidate. That way, you get one composite candidate who's better prepared, and more well-rounded, than any one person. That's how they cheat in the story "The Election," by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Shaara. In the year 2066, a computer called Uncle Sam administers a series of tests to find the person who's most qualified to become U.S. President. But the presidency has become so complex, the computer can no longer find anyone who's qualified. So the authorities secretly have a bunch of experts in different fields take the test in their subjects, and pretend to be one super-qualified person. A similar stunt worked great in a novel I read years ago, but now can't find any information on, including the title. A group of identical clones run for president and pretend to be one person, dazzling crowds with their multi-faceted brilliance. Get someone who knows how to control machines with his mind. That's what Linderman did on Heroes, to ensure that Nathan Petrelli became a U.S. Congressman at the end of the first season. Micah, the kid who can make any machine do his bidding, interfaced with the electronic voting system and added a quadrillion extra votes for Nathan. Because who would ever vote for "flying man" otherwise? Implant a brain chip in your candidate that lets you tweak his message in real time. Can't believe I forgot this one, since it's one of my fave novels — thanks to Fanfilmbook (among others) for bringing it up. In the novel Interface, which Neal Stephenson co-wrote with his uncle George Jewsbury, Illinois governor William Cozzano suffers a stroke and a shadowy business coalition called the Network has a chip implanted in him. Ostensibly, it's to heal him from his stroke, but it actually allows the Network to control what he's saying in real time. If his speech isn't going over well with audiences, they can jolt him in a different direction. Puppet candidate FTW!
Hack the vote. The scenario in Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is a bit hard to swallow — who would ever believe that people would trust electronic voting machines with no paper audit trail? Nevertheless, that's what happens in the lunar election, allowing the supercomputer Mike to steal the vote in favor of his libertarian buddies. Something similar worked for Robert A. Booth, the final president of the United States, who won reelection in the Judge Dredd comics by sabotaging the voting computers. Luckily, it could never happen in real life. Additional reporting by Katharine Duckett.