Integrity and Rhetoric Don’t Mix Well

Donald Trump as the candidate for the GOP stated that he might not accept the results of the election.  To his credit, he most likely meant only if he there was reason to believe the results had been rigged.  The manner in which he made the statement, however, resulted in many supporters believing someone, somehow, would rig the election causing Donald Trump to lose.  One can argue if Joe Walsh’s reference to muskets meant bloodshed or civil disobedience, but it is difficult to deny that at least on the fringes supporters planned for armed violence if the tally found Trump trailing.

Hillary Clinton as the candidate of the Democratic Party stated that if Donald Trump refused to accept the results of the election that would be a threat to our country.

We have seen protests about the election by individuals who do not want to accept Donald Trump as president.  While I have no issues with peaceful protests, a few individuals have destroyed property and interfered with the rights of others.  On the other hand, some supporters of Donald Trump have intimidated and harassed people who they deem as different.  Yes, there have been false reports, but I have also witnessed the verbal harassment of students for nothing more than their Muslim faith.

Idiots are not confined to either the GOP or Democratic Party.  Idiots come in every skin color, gender, shape, size, beliefs, and everything else.  No group has a monopoly on idiots or reprehensible individuals for that matter.  Fortunately, sincere and caring individuals exist in those groupings as well.

With the preliminaries addressed…

Efforts at voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression are not unique to either the GOP or Democratic Party.  Both at times in our history have worked independently and in conjunction with one another to limit the voting power of specific groupings of people.  This history is at the ballot box directly and does not include efforts such as gerrymandering.

Most recently, the GOP has pushed for various Voter ID laws and applauded the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby v. Holder that deemed Section 4 (the coverage formula) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional.  That ruling also made Section 5 (preclearance) of the same act invalid.

People argue, but Voter ID laws are a non-solution to a problem that has been statistically irrelevant.  What is an acceptable form of photo identification?  If enforced as contended, then state identifications that were not in compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005 should not have been treated as a valid ID for voting purposes.  It is true that many activities today cannot be done without having a photo ID, but it is also true that for a number of senior citizens especially there is no pressing need for them to have a current photo ID.

Unfortunately, arguments about inconvenience typically devolve into the reasoning that nothing is inconvenient as long as it affects people other than ourselves.  Seriously we could have actual hard to falsify identifications by incorporating biometrics, but many people argue that is either an inconvenience, invasion of privacy, or a potential infringement upon freedom.

Perhaps, but can anyone believe that nobody has ever made a fake ID “way back when” to buy beer or watch an R rated movie before reaching the ages of 18, 21, or 17?  It wasn’t that long ago when many boys lied about their age and had papers so that they could join the military and go into combat.

Practically every election, and the presidential election of 2016 adhered to the pattern, reports of machines changing votes are heard.  While some reports are fictitious, some are true and the fault is not a result of nefarious scheming but legitimate issues with the machines.  Occurrences as simple as oils from voters’ fingers accumulating on touch screens or humidity changes within polling locations can cause inaccurate inputs.  Simply machines need to be checked and recalibrated on location on a regular basis in every location.

While the notion is popular and it is true that hacking of the software at voting terminals is possible, in many locations these terminals are not connected and so the malware would need to be installed on each machine individually.  This type of effort to alter election results is more likely to occur in the tallying process.

Likewise, other attempts (physical) to alter election results can occur by either preventing people from casting ballots via written law, personal intimidation, or even during the tallying process.  If done during tallying, however, for all intents and purposes for a physical misrepresentation of the votes to occur everyone in the room has to be involved.  Everyone has someone watching every move.

This type of direct skewing can happen even when machine counts have paper backups as either optical scan or “paper packs.” Unfortunately, all machines do not have such “paper trails” in a physical form, and sheer numbers make it impractical to physically count each ballot.

A technological attack, however, could in theory occur at that point.  From my perspective as a history professor, we don’t have enough data to determine the likelihood of such an occurrence.  That methods are beyond my areas of expertise.

I can state, however, that seemingly everything and everybody can be hacked.  Statistically I have nothing cite, but I think most people are at least aware of the risks involved with having certain accounts.  Some people reading probably had information stolen by attacks on Target, Yahoo, and who knows how many businesses.  Academic institutions have been hacked as well with Michigan State University being just the latest for which I have a personal concern.

Should there be a recount?  That’s what this boils down to.

The other day on social media, I linked this writing from Professor of Computer Science J. Alex Halderman at the University of Michigan.  In addition to being one of the individuals involved in this questioning of vote integrity, he also provides a good outline of the actual procedures to have a recount or validation of results in these respective states.

I’ll leave Jill Stein’s efforts to readers to debate.  Despite what anyone might believe about the fundraising efforts, one cannot deny that she has standing to request a “recount.”

Since private individuals are paying the costs as predicated by the system, I really don’t understand the opposition.  Regardless of candidate each should want fair results, and we should expect them to abide by those results.  If concerns about the integrity of the election existed on either side, shouldn’t we all want those concerns addressed.  Once investigated, however, we expect all to accept the results.  Everyone will not be happy, but we have to move along.

It should not matter if Trump won or if Clinton won; if the election was fixed then We the People lost.  That’s what I think too many of both sides fail to understand because we have become so partisan.

In some ways it’s like instant replay in sports.  For years the call on the field, regardless of how blatant an error the call was stood.  Then we had instant replay.  Yep we all agree that the right call comes out of the replay booth, right?  Still, we move along just as we did before instant replay even though “instant” has gained a new definition.

For this election, I think a validation process is a good thing.  We need to know if someone hacked these systems.  We need to have voting terminals that have “paper trails” in the form of optical scan or “paper packs.”  When states purchased their voting equipment, people were too impressed by bells and whistles because they really had no way of anticipating reliability.  Unfortunately, it took an election for many to see the potential holes.

Should the results be overturned if these recounts / validations change the tallies?

In a normal world, I would say yes regardless of candidate.  As divided as the country is today, however, I think more harm than good would occur by changing the results.  I would hope that Democrats and Republicans would refer to themselves as Americans and not as members of their party.  I would hope that Americans see themselves as residents of a country within a world of other countries, cultures, and beliefs.  We cannot be isolated.  Historically, we may have been buffered by two oceans but with modernization that buffer no longer exists.  Nobody is immune to that pebble dropping or butterfly or bird flapping its wings anywhere on the planet. The waves or wind will reach us.

The greatest enemy is if we only care about integrity when we are the one who lost or who suffers.  Everybody will accuse the other of being the hypocrite.  If Clinton had won…because Trump won…should not change our values.  The fact that everyone is pointing their finger at someone else and calling that person the hypocrite illustrates our own hypocrisy and our own lack of integrity.

BTW:  I’ll type about the Electoral College another time.  I’ve analyzed a number of elections using various forms of proportional allocation, and it doesn’t have as great an impact as some may believe.  When people in favor today talk historically, they tend to ignore the impact of slavery in the creation of the system even when they are correct about the fears of a direct democracy.  Oddly enough, however, these same people often desire direct democracy over representational styled approaches in local and personal matters.  Those who oppose the Electoral College often fail to see the advantages of such a system.  The Electoral College, whether viewed at the point of its creation or today, has both positives and negatives.  It needs to viewed beyond the implications of a single election.