So we are in a world where magic is real. There has been a successful revolution against the king, and people try to build a democracy with elections. However there's a problem:

The magic guild (the only ones who are able to practice magic) is decidedly against democracy, and will do everything they can do sabotage or at least manipulate the election. Now fortunately there are ways to find who performed some magic as soon as the magic itself is detected and identified as such (and you don't need magic to do that), and there are ways to imprison someone that cannot be defeated with magic (and the imprisoned mages will not be able to use magic because they will of course have no access their magic wands). Moreover, if the election can be proved to be manipulated by magic, it will be declared invalid and repeated. So the magicians have to employ tactics that are unlikely to be detected.

So the magicians have decided to just have their own candidate and make sure that candidate wins; that candidate will then end democracy and reintroduce monarchy. Now they have some support in the population, but it is far from certain that they can actually win, therefore they will likely also try to manipulate the elections, and of course they will not hesitate to use their magic powers to do so.

Possible tactics include:

  • Manipulation of ballots inside the urn (using magic, this can be done overtly, for example by moving the cross on a ballot to their candidate, or by changing a ballot for another candidate to an invalid ballot, also ballot stuffing by magically creating extra ballots might be possible).

  • Subtle ways to prevent people who are known or expected to vote against the magicians from reaching the voting booth (but if they use the magic too blatantly, they will be detected!)

  • Use magic to get people who are undecided to make their cross for the magicians (in a way that they think they have spontaneously decided to do that; again, if they can recognize it as influence of magic, they've lost).

So how do you protect your election so that undetected magic is prevented as far as possible? Note that the individual votes are, of course, secret, and measures that break that secrecy are not acceptable.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Also, how do you expect to maintain a democracy with which the mages disagree? $\endgroup$
    – iAdjunct
    Oct 31, 2015 at 14:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid we need to know the limits of magic to know how to circumvent it. Perhaps including the limits of magic would be good to know. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Oct 31, 2015 at 16:21
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I read 'elections' as 'electrons'... $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Oct 31, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Without saying what magicians are or aren't able to do, there is no way to tell. If they can magically change the mind of many people at once in a second from a remote location, there would be no way to prevent that. If their magic involves just things like making fire out of air using their wand, it would probably be unlikely to succeed more than what a group of vandals or terrorists with incendiary bombs would. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2015 at 10:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The magicians could procrastinate the election indefinitely by blatantly and grossly sabotaging, manipulating and frauding it every single time, making it being invalidated and repeated indefinitely as long as they are able to not get caught doing that. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2015 at 10:22

4 Answers 4


Technology seems the likely answer to magic in this case.

Cryptography in particular could be used to "sign" votes on ballots in a way that would reveal any tampering, assuming that magic doesn't allow the mages to "just know" the correct cypher for a changed or extra vote. The distribution of keys for voting machines would have to be guarded extremely carefully, with magic detection being used as much as is feasible. Voting machines should have magic-sensitive anti-tampering features too, that clearly invalidate the results.

Lacking technology of this level, you would need organization and people to detect the tampering. The only way I could see that happen is to flood the election with honeypots of all kinds, to entrap the mages:

  • Create many false ballot boxes with known counts and entries of votes, place them mixed in with the real ones during elections and check them during vote counting.
  • Create some ballots using any material that has a known reaction to manipulative magic.
  • Place fake voters at each voting location with the assignment to mark the ballot with a specific invalid vote ("cross out all the vowels in the 2nd candidate's name). This would detect anything that prevented the voter from voting or made him change his mind.

This approach has some serious weaknesses, especially that it relies on secrecy. To prevent the mages from compromising the effort, it would have to been done by a loosely linked group of independent cells that overlap in their working areas, so that each will confirm another's test independently. Even then it will probably only works once.

Having tried to answer how such an election might be guarded, it seems to me that the mages have so many options to derail the democratic process that it seems bound to fail.

  • They could simply turn all other candidates into frogs. Sure the election gets invalidated and a single mage might go to trial, but how many times can this happen before no sane person will run for election?
  • They could influence terrible candidates to run for positions of power, going so far as to magically suppress all kinds of mental illnesses. Remove the magic after the election, and the real winners will burn down the democratic house around themselves.
  • The magic guild can probably bribe almost anyone quite effectively, magic being able to realize many things that mere money can't.
  • Conversely, the magic guild can probably dig up more dirt on any opposing candidate than he/she can face.

I think the obvious route is to employ a magician to ensure magic is not used. Not every magician is going to be against democracy. There has to be the odd ball who is either pro-democracy or is anti-guild (enemy of my enemy is my friend). By employing anti-magic-magic by use of an "on your side" magician, you will ensure the validity of the voting outcome. Mind you, you are not making it so magicians cannot vote, but rather you are ensuring the integrity of the vote, which should appease all.


You have a magic guild, this mean that there is some list of (more or less) every magicians. If you can retrieve that list, you can then check the identity of everyone and forbid magicians to enter standard polling places, and force them to go in separated polling places. If magicians are a small minority, you can even ask them to auto-regulate their polling places, since whatever they do in the process will have little effects.

The idea is that during the whole process you keep every magicians far from the urns, so that they do not get the chance to modify their content.

The other strategies (i.e. changing someone's mind directly) seems really hard to counter. However, unless the magicians are really powerful or numerous, they might not have the ability to act on a sufficient amount of people to change the result of an election.


Your premise has a problem: if we're instituting democracy, an elected mage can't overthrow democracy. And if the mages have the power to overthrow democracy against the rules, they wouldn't wait to get voted into power first. In fact, why would the mages even bother to stop the elections? Why not just use their magic to subtly alter people from the shadows to get what they want anyways?

Now, you say magic can be detected. So why not just pass all the ballots and voters through a magic-detector as soon as they're collected? Then arrest the offending mage, have the voter redo the ballot if the ballot was affected, or sleep it off and vote tomorrow if the voter was affected.

Because you detected magic on the voters themselves, you know they answered accurately to their own wishes (at least, you don't collect their ballot until you know this vote was clean). So then you just re-detect magic on the ballots in a central area far from mages to see how many have been altered after the fact. Then arrest all the offending mages.

Then count the altered ballots. If it's numerically possible for the altered ballots to have swung the vote, find the voters of the affected ballots and have them re-vote. If there were 3000 altered ballots and Pedro was 10000 votes ahead of Spock, then worst case scenario is Pedro should be -3000 votes (7000 ahead) and Spock should be +3000 votes (so Pedro is still 4000 ahead), so you do nothing.

You mention that the voters' votes are secret. I assume this means we don't publicly announce the votes. If you mean that absolutely nobody can know who voted for who, then it's slightly more complicated. If the altered ballots could have swung the vote, we just have a re-election. We've already arrested most of the offending mages, so we just keep re-doing the election until the affected ballots can't swing the vote.

While we're at it, we could go a bit draconian, say interference with the vote is treason, and publicly execute every mage caught tampering with the vote. That should help keep the number of re-votes down.

You also mention that mages can't cast magic without a wand. So just make everyone strip down before entering the voting zone and remove all wands. (You could execute anyone caught with a wand, but it could have been planted just so you'd execute them, so we'll just remove the wand.)

And to combat the issue of mages preventing voters from reaching the voting area, just make sure everyone votes. Even if they just mark "I decline to vote", we can know whether that declination was because of magic or free will and move on. Again, once we've collected enough votes where the remaining 2% of the population can't affect the outcome, we don't worry about finding every last beggar.

  • $\begingroup$ "Your premise has a problem: if we're instituting democracy, an elected mage can't overthrow democracy." — Not completely legally. But look at how Hitler came into power. "And if the mages have the power to overthrow democracy against the rules, they wouldn't wait to get voted into power first." — Well, Hitler had tried that path, too, but failed. Being in an official position of power makes it much easier to subvert the system. Anyway, the suggestions in your post are good, so +1. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Dec 6, 2015 at 8:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .