Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Dec. 19, 20 or 21, 2016
If too many cooks spoil the election broth, voters are in the soup.
And it stinks.
It’s highly unlikely anything’s going to change the election results, but after this year, who can predict?
What is predictable is that the public’s trust in elections’ integrity is in jeopardy.
Voting is vulnerable – to innocent internal errors (especially with optical-scan and electronic voting machines), legislation suppressing or restricting voting rights, cyberattacks or media manipulation by outside forces (whether another nation or a powerful interest group), and the Electoral College system that’s supposed to prevent a demagogue or unfit person from taking office, but has the effect of sacrificing the one-person, one-vote concept in the only race in which the entire nation participates).
Ballots are tabulated by computers, and computer scientists say statistics suggest something is wrong for respected polls to have been so off. The only way to check crooks, hackers or mischief is a recount, and recounts were done incompletely in Wisconsin and blocked in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump won Michigan by 11,600, Wisconsin by 27,200 and Pennsylvania by 68,000 (totaling 106,800), so 53,401 votes would change the outcome. But no hand count is planned.
The CIA and National Security Agency head Admiral Michael Rogers say a foreign country attempted to interfere with the election, and signs point to Russia (although it would be disturbing if it were Canada, Japan or Nigeria). Ex-CIA operative Robert Baer told CNN that such interference should mean a new election, but in Washington, the response has been a bipartisan call for more investigating.
Russian meddling doesn’t explain Democrats’ down-ballot losses either, but voter suppression does. For the first time, more than a dozen states – including Ohio, Wisconsin and some swing states – voter-ID and other laws supposedly addressing voter fraud (which is “essentially nonexistent,” federal Judge Richard Posner said this fall) dramatically limited turnout or disenfranchised voters. Even retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion upholding voter-ID laws, seems to regret the ruling, calling it “an unfortunate decision.”
“Officially, Donald Trump won Michigan by [about] 11,000 votes,” reports journalist Greg Palast, author of “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.”
“But a record 75,335 [Michigan] votes were never counted,” he continues. “Most of these votes that went missing were in Detroit and Flint.”
Nationwide, something called the “Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program” directed by Kansas Republican Secretary of State in dozens of states with compliant officials also may have purged more than 1 million eligible voters from the rolls, Palast reported in Rolling Stone magazine in August. And even if voter cast ballots, officials can reject them, which is why results sometimes don’t match exit polls – “the standard by which the U.S. State Department measures the honesty of foreign elections,” Palast adds. “How could these multi-million-dollar, Ph.D.-directed statisticians with decades of experience get exit polls so wrong? Answer: They didn’t. The polls were accurate because exit pollsters can only ask, ‘How did you vote?’ [not] ‘Was your vote counted’.”
And those shocking numbers pale in comparison to the routine disposal of millions of rejected, invalidated or spoiled ballots, says Palast, who estimates, “In a typical presidential election, at least three million votes end up rejected, often for picayune, absurd reasons.”
Current data seems to show the 2016 election had 2.5 million fewer votes than 2012, which seems peculiar.
The country needs to clean out the “kitchen” and make voting simple and secure in the long term. In the short term, even if Electoral College Electors do their duty to the Constitution to overrule the “prevailing minority” (Clinton did receive about 2.8 million more votes than Trump), such a surprising move would throw the race to the House of Representatives, and it’s hard to believe Speaker Paul Ryan or the GOP majority would favor patriotism over partisan power.
“This goes beyond candidates winning or losing,” I said in a June column about the issue. “Is democracy at risk from rigged elections?”
The “cooks” behind various election ingredients are trying to serve up a rotten dish.
[PICTURED: Illustration from Signs of the Times - sott.net.]