It’s been over a week since Election Day (November 12, 2020 as of this writing) and nearly a week since most media sources reported Joe Biden is the President-elect. However, the claims of fraud coming from the Trump campaign, and increasingly fellow Republicans, has caused a reported majority of Trump voters to believe the Election results are not legitimate while the majority of Biden voters are presumed to trust the reporting. This article aims to tackle the claims the Trump campaign is making — the logic used should apply regardless of evidence produced or if there’s no evidence or if the evidence claimed is largely circumstantial.
Trump claims many ballots have anomalies such as deceased voters, out of state voters, or late votes causing these to be illegitimate and stating they therefore shouldn’t be counted.
This Election saw over one hundred and fifty million ballots cast. This is a historically high number and a big point of pride for our country to see so many people participate. What should be acknowledged is that anomalies are nothing new. It’s unfortunate but a realistic part of any count — it will not be 100% correct. It’s impossibly difficult for a count of this scale to be completed without any mistakes at any stage. It may be possible to create a process that is mistake proof, but the cost and time investment needed would be far and above what it is feasible.
Having said that, we should want to limit these occurrences as much as possible. All three categories that the President is claiming should be reviewable. As a nation we have to review them, we have to recount (legal votes) as required by state law or requested by either campaign, and we have to confirm that the results of the Election are as accurate as possible and to a high statistical degree of confidence.
The Trump campaign claimed that poll watchers in Pennsylvania and Michigan were expelled from or never allowed in to observe the vote counting process or were not allowed close enough to confirm if the process is sound.
While the claim if true would certainly raise questions, it would not confirm any nefarious events. Poll watchers are not intended to be auditors anyway and it is unreasonable to believe they can effectively determine if illegitimate votes are being counted.
Consider that poll workers are required to view hand writing to establish if the vote is legitimate or not — and that there are tens or hundreds of workers at each of the thousands of locations across the US. In order for a poll watcher to determine if what each worker is doing is correct, they would have to stand over their shoulder (quite literally) to get that perspective. Even further though, they would need to do so with every worker. This begs the question: does the Trump campaign expect to tally the votes themselves? All 150,000,000? The prospect may sound appealing to Trump supporters but I would imagine there’d be an uproar among Biden supporters if this were to happen (and vice versa).
At the end of the day, the process has to be trusted in its statistical probability of producing the popular winner and that the process is being followed properly. It simply isn’t feasible to get to a vote count total any other way. Having said that, it would be more prudent to question the process itself as that could potentially lead to widespread mistakes.
Vote by Mail
Trump claims the vote by mail process is inherently fraudulent as it (in some states) gave all voters a legal ballot whether they requested it or not. These ballots (as it’s claimed) were sent to wrong addresses, did not require signatures (some states), and did not require a postmark date (some states). Further, Trump claims that some states are “finding” ballots after the Election in order to push Biden’s count above his.
The vote by mail process is not new, but there has been some updated practices specifically implemented due to COVID-19. The process that some states adopted is worth examining regardless of whether it does or does not impact the Election Results for the purpose of improving future Elections. Ultimately, the goal of the State / Federal Governments and Election Officials should be to create an easy, reliable, and safe method for all voting eligible citizens to participate in if they so choose. If the process is deemed to have holes in it, it may be too late to rectify the situation — it also may be impossible to tell what effect these measures had, which would negatively impact perceptions for a long time.
The process many states followed was counting Election Day votes first and then processing vote by mail ballots. Considering how deeply Trump opposed mail-in-ballots, it’s reasonable to believe his supporters were more likely to vote on Election Day in person rather than early or by mail. The claim that States are “finding” ballots is similar to the poll worker situation — ultimately the processes have to be trusted.
Democratic Machine Engineered Against Trump
Trump claims Democratic State Governments rigged the election in their favor.
The results of the election tended to be in line with state governments (ie. a Democratic led State was likely to vote for Biden and a Republican led State was likely to vote for Trump). Considering the polarized state of our nation, doesn’t that make sense? It would be strange if California voted for Trump and Alabama voted for Biden; but that is far from what happened — aside from a few states (Arizona, Georgia) that have been Republican for some time and swing states, all of “Biden’s States” are historically Democratic. The fact that Arizona and Georgia “went Blue” leads one to believe that this theory is not factual but emotional.
Consider the argument from the opposing perspective (not a true statement, just making a point): Iowa and Ohio (two swing states run by Republican State governments) were rigged in Trump’s favor. Biden was leading in Ohio, but Trump “came back” and won them — same concept as Wisconsin/Michigan/Pennsylvania, but Trump won. The biggest difference of course is that the Biden campaign is not disputing the results in those states and therefore there’s presumed to be no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Trump claiming the media is pushing “fake news” has dated back at least to the run-up to 2016’s Election. In regards to the election, he claims pollsters intentionally skewed data as part of voter suppression, that the media does not determine who the winner is, and that the whole media apparatus is against him.
Pollsters did miss (sometimes by heavy margins) the ultimate results of the elections in many states that Trump ultimately won or lost by a narrow margin. Polls, whether Presidential or otherwise, are notorious for choosing small samples and/or a non-diverse population. While this part of the claim has merit, the voter suppression portion is overblown. First, Trump voters by virtue of Trump’s attacking the media do not trust it (so why would they trust the polls in the first place?). Second, if Trump supporters believed they were “losing” wouldn’t that be compelling to go out to vote? And vice versa, if Biden supporters believed they were “winning” wouldn’t that be compelling to not take the time and energy to go and vote?
The media does not determine who the Election winner is, and they never have, but it is their job to report what’s happening. To do this, they obtain preliminary data from each county/state to report who is projected to win — I’m unaware of any circumstances that these projections were ultimately incorrect (aside from short-term mistakes). A Presidential candidate refusing to concede despite the media consensus is largely unprecedented.
Given the numerous organizations that Trump does not support (and he only supports those that agree with his narrative), it’s hard to believe that the vast majority of the media apparatus is against Trump. That would propose that journalists are all Democrats with no morals. While slanted stories are bound to happen (on both sides), an outright monopoly on news reporting is outlandish. But consider an opposing perspective on this: if the media is largely against Trump, why is that? Could it be that these professionals who spend their working hours following his every action see legitimate cause for concern? Could it be that the media outlets are reporting true concerns about Trump’s leadership and behavior and that they are not reporting the unsubstantiated claims he supports?
In recent days, Trump has even turned on a media outlet he previously supported, FOX, due to the fact they are also projecting Biden as the President-elect. While everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, an honest news organization (even those that are slanted) will inevitably sometimes report news that an individual does not want to hear. Media reports what happens, the truth isn’t always perceived to be good.
Effects and Outcomes
Whether you believe the election is or is not fraudulent, the effect is creating an ever more divided country with partisanship now inhabiting the legitimacy of our democratic process. Considering the rhetoric going into this election, the current situation is not all that surprising (Trump did say he wouldn’t accept the results unless he won), but the fallout is certainly disappointing.
I believe it’s important to separate the candidate from the country. There’s nothing wrong with supporting Biden or supporting Trump; but it is important to ultimately support the USA. So, what is best for our country? To be sure, a fraudulent election is not good for our country. But also, an election believed to be fraudulent is not good for our country. A fraudulent election is just as inherently wrong as unsubstantiated claims of fraud is wrong. A clear and concise conclusion to this election must be achieved and both sides must reach for that end — Republicans admitting defeat or Democrats admitting process failures is the only way for the nation’s people to believe in the results. I fear that is too much to ask of our nation’s politicians. Perhaps Trump’s statement on the finality of the Election was correct; we may need the conservative majority Supreme Court to rule for or against the claims made — what a terrible way for this to end.