Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Of recounts and faithless electors

I have no problem with the recount efforts in WI, MI and PA. It's silly for people to act like this is some kind of underhanded way to overturn the election. The recount procedures are part of the electoral process. Assuming everyone follows the rules, there is no problem with Jill Stein requesting a recount (she was on the ballot and she is entitled to, even if her vote total was minuscule), and there is no problem with the Clinton campaign cooperating with the recount to ensure that the recount is fair.

That said, I have almost no expectation that the recount will deny Trump the presidency. There's no actual evidence of fraud so far. In order to change the result, the recounts in all three states would have to flip the result to the other candidate. Getting even one state to flip would be unprecedented. The odds of all three, especially having Clinton  bridge the 68,236 vote gap between the candidates in PA, is almost out of the question.

Unless the results were "hacked." But how would that work? I don't know how MI and WI handle their voting, but I was an attorney-poll watcher on election day in PA and I just don't see how anyone would pull off a hack of the election in this state if they wanted to do it. The voting machines in my area are purely electronic, meaning that they did not give a paper receipt. Instead, everyone votes electronically by pushing buttons, and then at the end of the day the machine spits out a tally (which is a paper receipt). The machines is not hooked up to the Internet, or any network. It's just plugged in. So to "hack" the machine, someone would have to install malicious code in the machine prior to the election so that it would record the votes wrong. The code would have to be undetectable to the mechanic assigned to the machine on election day (I personally watched the inspection of the machines in my precinct the morning of November 8, and I personally confirmed that each machine started the day with a vote tally of zero). Except that one machine wouldn't change the results of the election, Our precinct alone had two machines for a couple of hundred voters. To alter the tally of the 6 million votes cast in this state, someone would need to sneak in and install malicious code on thousands of machines scattered across the commonwealth. The change would also have to be carefully calculated so that it doesn't create any weird data blips, like one machine in one precinct recording a ton of Trump votes while the other one in the same precinct does not, or that machines in neighboring precincts who have similar voting histories don't record wildly divergent results. Any of those things would be easy to see if they happened. I have not seen any reports of those tell-tail signs. Without any evidence, the charge that the election was "hacked" is just baseless and irresponsible.

Of course, I could be wrong. I certainly have been wrong before. By all means let people recount. But the hopes that a recount will deliver the presidency to Clinton are pretty misplaced.

Actually, the only real (albeit really remote) chance of changing the result is by getting enough electors to go faithless and switch their Trump vote to Clinton. Again, I highly doubt this will happen. Electors are by design party loyalists. A lot of party loyalists really do not like Trump, but, if the recent election demonstrated nothing else, they really do not like Clinton even more. Any elector who feels he or she cannot in good conscience vote for Trump is more likely to be like this guy and resign, than cast a faithless vote for Clinton. Still, as Trump disavows all his campaign promises one-by-one, and more and more news breaks of his endless conflicts of interest, I guess there is an outside chance that between now and mid-December the shit could really hit the fan causing a deep and widespread revulsion to the guy.

I don't think faithless electors will deliver the Presidency to Clinton, but I do think there is a better chance of that then the recount changing the result.

It is also worth noting that if that long-shot happens and a bunch of electors break their pledge and deny Trump the presidency, there will be a shit-storm of epic proportions. Until recently that is why I was against using the electoral college to deny Trump the presidency. We would pay the cost of a constitutional crisis just to avoid a bad president. But since Trump has become president-elect, started to name his alt-rightist appointees and business cronies to positions of power, and has demonstrated his willingness to simply ignore constitutional provisions like the emoluments clause, I think we are heading for a constitutional crisis either way. So now I'm all for denying Trump the presidency in the electoral college. I just don't think it is going to happen.