Scenarios for how an election disaster could unfold in the United States next week involve lawsuits, lost ballots, armed insurrection and other potential crises in thousands of local jurisdictions on 3 November.
But there is one much simpler scenario for election-night chaos, centering on a single address, that many analysts see as among the most plausible.
The scenario can be averted, election officials say, by heightening public awareness about it – and by cautioning vigilance against carefully targeted lies that Donald Trump has already begun to tell.
Known as the “red mirage”, the scenario could develop if Trump appears to be leading in the presidential race late on election night and declares victory before all the votes are counted.
The red mirage “sounds like a super-villain, and it’s just as insidious”, the former Obama administration housing secretary Julían Castro says in a video recorded as a public service announcement to voters this week.
“On election night, there’s a real possibility that the data will show Republicans leading early, before all the votes are counted. Then they can pretend something sinister’s going on when the counts change in Democrats’ favor.”
What is really meant is the following:
“Look, it’s gonna take us some time to fiddle the vote, find those amazing boxes of just the right number of D votes to push Joe over the line. So, give us a break, right? We got work to do so give us the time to do it.”