As Green Party candidate Jill Stein, now joined by the Clinton campaign, presses ahead with efforts to recount the votes in the critical swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, critical weaknesses in the American election system - if it can be called that - are being exposed.
One is that, in most US jurisdictions, American election procedures are largely opaque, and require great trust in election officials and anyone with access to the ballots or the vote counting process. This can be difficult when, for excample, in Sauk County, Wisconsin, enthusiasm for the presidential election was so great that, in one city, Baraboo, November 8th showed 121% turnout, according to a report by Richard Hayes Phillips of the Election Defense Alliance. That's 8,390 ballots cast in a city of 6,923 registered voters. Across Sauk County, initial figures were that 34,323 people had voted for a presidential candidate of their choice. The problem is, according to the same set of numbers, only 31,838 people had cast ballots.
These kinds of problems illustrate why many people have no confidence in the US election system, which is more accurately a hodge-podge of systems, few of them good. In Wisconsin, paper ballots are largely counted by machine, possibly followed by a hand recount such as Stein has requested. The larger problem is, a hand recount won't determine beyond the shadow of a doubt who really won.
When questioned about the discrepancies, Wisconsin election officials blamed calculator errors, when the totals from electronic vote-counting machines were added up. For a typical county, this might involve dozens of numbers, but not hundreds or thousands. Whether or not one finds this explanation credible, the fact remains that in most of America, in contrast to most other advanced industrialized nations, the opportunity for a vote count which can be broadly agreed upon as fair and honest is lost on election night.
Elections may be one of the few areas where high-tech is less advanced, and low-tech is more advanced, in terms of the desired end result. The desired result is elections which all sides are likely to accept as fair, no matter how much they hate each other. This is what Hillary Clinton and her supporters were alluding to when they lambasted Trump for not saying he would abide by the election results. That was before she lost.
In the process of Wisconsin's revision of the numbers, Donald Trump now has 5,000 fewer votes than he did before, 22,177 votes more than Clinton. On the day after the election he had 27,257. Nearly 20% of the gap has been erased before any recount even begins.
But because of what we call our voting system in America, it is unlikely both sides will agree on the results of a hand recount of the paper ballots. One side or another will claim something untoward happened behind closed doors, while the ballots were out of sight. Election theft has been around a long time, even when everything was paper ballots. The method of counting those ballots, and who does it and who can watch, is the foundation of confidence in the system.
This is why much of the rest of the world has settled on one principle: Paper ballots that are counted by hand at the place of polling, in front of everyone, as soon as the doors close. At the start of the voting day, the bottom of the box is shown to observers to show it is empty.
Computer scientists such as Alex Halderman, who was reported as giving the Clinton campaign the idea of a recount in the first place, is the first to agree. Halderman has said:
"I know I may sound like a Luddite for saying so, but most election security experts are with me on this: paper ballots are the best available technology for casting votes."
The election integrity community has agreed that paper ballots, counted on election night at the polling place, provides the least opportunity for evildoers to tamper one way or another with the ballots. It is the way the rest of the politically civilized world does it, such as Germany, where all electronic voting systems have been banned. Many towns in New Hampshire hand-count paper ballots, with happy results and few lawyers and lawsuits over the years (SEE VIDEO BELOW.)
According to the report released by Election Justice USA, on vast irregularities in the 2016 Democratic primaries indicating Sanders may have actually won the nomination, such a system is the standard in Germany, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, and 53 other countries.
In public counting, a member of each party witnesses the marks on the ballot, and perhaps a neutral citizen observer. Members of the public may stand "outside the rail" to observe. If space is short, the proceedings can be transmitted by CCTV to larger rooms.
The argument, sometimes heard, that hand-counting is not feasible for bigger cites is nonsense. Germany has big cities. A large city is nothing more than a collection of thousands of precincts, but precincts are all roughly the same size across the country, about a thousand voters on average. Washington DC has the largest precinct, about 2700 voters. All precincts use about the same number of polls workers. 1,000 or 2,000 votes is easily manageable in a night by a standard polling station staff of six to ten people, consisting of officials and volunteers.
Election integrity activists know it takes a little longer to do it this way than to press a button and run numbers on a machine. But isn't confidence in the system worth the extra time?
Now it turns out that there are questions not just about presidential election results, but congressional results too. In Florida some statisticians have advised Bernie Sanders protegee Tim Canova to ask for a recount in his race against Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, former chair of the DNC.
On the Republican side, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt edged out Democratic challenger Jason Kandor, by 3% in Kandor's unexpectedly strong challenge, but there are questions about fraud. With recent revelations on the ease of hacking elections, how do we know who should be sitting in Congress and who shouldn't? The ease of election fraud has opened up a can of worms which Americans must now confront.
It is well-known that incumbents are notoriously hard to beat, even when they are widely viewed as unpopular. Why?
In the election integrity world you will hear much talk of the "chain of custody." That's a fancy way of saying that once the ballots are out of public view, there is really no 100% certain way to know what happens to them. We want to believe that most of our election officials are honest and upright, and most of them are. But when trillions in government contracts are on the line, plum appointments, and raw naked power, the incentives are almost irresistible to the truly determined, who may work under the noses of honest officials.
Conspiracy theory? Let's remember that's what Clinton supporters were calling Trump's fears of election-rigging. Until "she," of "her" whom they are "with," lost.
Hand-counted paper ballots in the polling place, the night of the election, in public. Let's join the rest of the world.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
RTalloni on November 29, 2016:
Perhaps the entire goal was to raise another million or so for something or other...
Ncrdbl1 on November 29, 2016:
There is no legal grounds for recount. The Stein petition claims that hacking was responsible for the outcome. However the machines are not connected to any internet device and impossible to hack. As things sit right now it does not look as if she may get a recount in Pa. She needs all three to change the outcome.
RTalloni on November 29, 2016:
Good discussion you've started here. Integrity is a huge issue that requires accountability in situations such as counting votes. It's also a huge issue when we see a former candidate like Clinton jump into the current fray after taking the stance she took on accepting the outcome while campaigning. Nothing new on that, it's just that she's being so shameless about it.
When the current administration was voted in we watched those elections play out. There was great concern about the way he was elected. I witnessed people trying to vote in multiple districts and also nursing home patients being "helped" to vote in a medicaid facility. I can't imagine what others witnessed, but no one thought it was wise to waste anyone's time trying to get to the bottom of the problems after the election. It was time to move on with a view of the next election(s).
People learned from the experiences they had as a result of watching and living under the regressive (at best) leadership of the last 8 years. They talked about it among themselves instead of listening to media (news and entertainment), and they decided to vote in this election instead of sitting it out as in the past.
An honest recount after the election considering the left's people are on record saying the things they've said? The world has been laughing at us for a while. Now they are rolling on the floor.
This election is over, but the people's work is not. Holding on to our Republic requires the people who voted for new leadership to hold them accountable by actively participating in local, regional, and national decisions. Learn what it means to live in a true republic in order to reject and debunk thinking and communication that encourages a democratic form of government.
We need to be the republic we were meant to be or we will lose it. Simply using the question "how to hold on to our republic" to search out and study the concept is a good place to start learning how to be that republic.
Mrbadexample on November 28, 2016:
Voting (and the integrity of t he vote) is a nightmare. I worked the election this year (the fifth time I've worked as a poll 'inspector'). The job pays a nominal amount, and the fact that a general election pays the same money as a primary means that you have FEWER workers when you need them most. People have to be kinda desperate to take the job, and the staffing is based on the flawed assumption that everyone else has done their job--a polling place where more than 1% need an affidavit ballot because their name didn't make the rolls, (or spoil their ballots by filling them out improperly) will have huge lines and take a long time to process at the end of the line even without a hand count. The gerrymandering of districts causes problems as well--the district I dealt with had boundaries that literally cut streets in half length wise (If you were on the north side of the street, you were in a different district than your neighbor across the way). People get this job after three hours training and an open-book test, all of which is based on the hope that there are no complications. My table was staffed by someone with early onset Alzheimers' (she had done the job over decades and the test didn't catch her issues) and a newly minted citizen whose first language was not English and who really didn't know how to look people's registration up alphabetically. Fixing these issues (PLUS adding a hand count) would cost money. It would also open the bureaucratic can of worms where somebody says 'what's wrong with what we're doing now?', a status quo that nobody wants to tip over.