On #AuditTheVote

The 11/22/16 re:act newsletter included an item about #AuditTheVote and linked to the following USA Today article: Still time for an election audit by 2 professors who were members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. This is my impression of the situation:

  1. The chances of changing the result is extremely, extremely low
  • Voting machines are not connected to the internet.¹ [Stop worrying about hackers stealing the election – Business Insider]
  • Marc Elias, general counsel for the 2016 Clinton campaign, in a Medium post, indicates that the Clinton campaign has been “combing over the results” and hasn’t found any “actionable” anomalies. [Listening and Responding To Calls for an Audit and Recount]
  • In the same post, Elias, writes, “The number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states — Michigan — well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.” (emphasis mine)
  • Wisconsin, Michigan, AND Pennsylvania would ALL have to recount and ALL THREE would have to result in Clinton winning that state in order for an audit/recount changing the outcome of the election.²
  • It is very likely that, if recounts are successfully initiated in MI and PA, the results would not be completed in time for the electoral college- in which case Congress?/ the courts? would have to decide the election. Given the bullet points above, they’d likely decide for Trump.
  1. There doesn’t seem to be any point in signing a petition
  • I don’t know about the recount laws in MI and PA, but so far my understanding (based on my readings about the 2000 election recount in FL and what the process for WI seems to be like from the reporting on Jill Stein) is that a recount needs to initiated by a candidate and may have to be initiated at the county level. The Clinton campaign has pretty much stated that they will not make the first move to initiate a recount, no matter how loudly we cry out; however, they will participate in a recount, if one is already going on.

If you really feel strongly about auditing the vote, the best thing to do would be to contribute to Jill Stein’s recount efforts- it’s a significant effort and expense to get lawyers to research and file the correct paperwork in all the various jurisdictions.

As for me, I’m not made of money. I have a limited budget to donate for advocacy, so I’d like to concentrate it in the places where I think it can make the most difference. It might be more productive to redirect energy from #AuditTheVote to the slightly less longshot (but only slightly less) of faithless electors (aka #HamiltonElectors). The case could be made that Donald Trump’s behavior thus far (continuing to meet with business associates while working on his transition; his children, who are supposed to be his firewall for avoiding conflicts-of-interest, sitting in on meetings related to his administration; etc.) and his refusal to set up a true #BlindTrust, which would require him to #divest his assets, reveal him to be showing bad faith -showing him to be unfit to be endowed with the powers of President and to serve as a defender of the Constitution.

The presidential oath of office is “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Remember, the president is either exempted or omitted from various ethics laws, and there is little recourse for violations to the few laws that do apply because the founding fathers/lawmakers figured that it wasn’t worth the trouble/potential Constitutional crisis since they assumed that a president that couldn’t be trusted to do the right thing would never be elected. [Trump’s claim that ‘the president can’t have a conflict of interest’ and The ethics rules that apply- and don’t apply- to Trump’s children, both from the Washington Post]

When lawmakers would need to pass a flurry of laws (H.R. 6340 The Presidential Accountability Act was just introduced 11/17)  in order to protect the spirit of the Constitution from an unethical, opportunistic president-elect, I think that makes a sufficient case that Donald Trump is incapable of upholding the oath of office and consequently unfit to be president.



¹Along with the professors that wrote the USA Today article, J. Alex Halderman, another notable voting security expert detailed in a Medium post how it would be possible to hack the vote even if voting machines aren’t online [Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots]. But, just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it is likely. Such a hack would require boots on the ground and seems like it would also require a pretty intimate knowledge of what type of voting machines are used in each targeted county, where the machines are stored, etc. However, even though it would only take a few counties to swing a state- we are now talking about three different states which would require many boots and lots of details to know and that would have to go just right to yield the present outcome. But, I am concerned that, even after the mess of the 2000 election, 30% of voters live in jurisdictions that don’t have an auditable, paper record of every vote, that Michigan does not routinely audits its vote as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania do (as mentioned in Elias’ post), and that it is very possible to rig a local election.

On the other hand, voter registration databases- which can be accessed via the internet- have been hacked [U.S. official: Hackers targeted voter registration systems of 20 states – Chicago Tribune]. If those states have a policy that allows individuals to complete a provisional ballot if they cannot be found in the voter rolls, then we should be more focused on provisional ballots rather than a full recount. Elias indicates in his Medium article that the Clinton campaign is also monitoring this aspect in his fifth point.

²See http://www.270towin.com/maps/2016-actual-electoral-map