Recount!: What about vote purging, counting errors, and provisional ballots?

I posted earlier about my skepticism that computer hacking stole the election for Trump. (Michigan, New Hampshire, and Minnesota don’t have computerized/electronic voting, but showed the same dramatic swing to the GOP vs. polling and historical patterns.)

However, there are many other valid reasons to support a recount.  First, it is still crucial to examine the flaws of electronic voting.  Second, there are accounts of clerical errors (to put it generously). Counting errors happen all the time, and they get corrected as the votes are certified, but they can also be missed. Third, and most importantly, we are seeing more and more stories about “Crosscheck,” Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach’s multi-state effort to purge the voter registration records. The program was in place in 30 states, apparently all the major battlegrounds, many with Republicans administering it. Crosscheck appears to target minorities and the poor, though the effects and intent are disputed. The program is designed “childishly,” as described by one expert, challenging people with common last names like Williams, Johnson, Rodriguez, or Kim (guess which groups are affected the most?) But the word “childish” does not reflect the cynicism and sophisticated manipulation of its implementation state-by-state. The program could affect millions of valid voters, and unknown thousands in particular states.  You can read a critical account here and a more balanced mainstream report here.  Charles Pierce, a top-notch journalist, wrote this story about Kobach and Crosscheck in August, and it is chilling.

Vote purging is a big deal. Kris Kobach is a dangerous partisan who has a long history of racially targeted vote-purging and anti-immigrant extremism. I encountered him in law school in the 1990s, and he was rabidly anti-immigrant then, and he has only gotten worse. Kobach met with Trump last week and appears to be the leading candidate for the Department of Homeland Security. Even more chilling.

As a general public policy matter, we need a recount and an audit, regardless of its immediate impact on the 2016 electoral college. We might be able to address these problems in the future. We need to find out how vote purging worked in practice, if it literally disenfranchised valid voters. The purges tend to disproportionately target minorities and the poor, intentionally or unintentionally. The poor tend to be renters and tend to move more often, and tend to change jobs more often, than wealthy homeowners.

The question for 2016 is whether this skewing or targeting could flip three states:
PA (current margin is about 68,000 for Trump)
WI (about 22,000 for Trump)
MI (about 10,000 for Trump).

If voters were wrongly purged, or did not have an acceptable form of ID, they can file a provisional ballot in an envelope with a signature and address. There are also an unknown number of absentee ballots. I support a recount to get the count right. But I’d be surprised if there are many thousands of uncounted ballots that could swing the election. Consider that, for Hillary to make up a 10,000 deficit in Michigan, there would need to be a lot of uncounted ballots with a huge Clinton margin. Imagine maybe 50,000 uncounted ballots, with a split of 30,000 to 20,000. Possible, but unlikely. Now stretch those margins for Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Even if we could flip Wisconsin and Michigan, the electoral college would still have 280 GOP electors. Still, there could be some momentum over the next three weeks as Trump’s shamelessness about his business conflicts of interest or his Putin connections might flip a few GOP electors, or at least extend some drama. We’d have some continuing denormalization/delegitimization of Trump, based on fact and counting votes, rather than fiction and voter suppression. Trump was happy in October to threaten to keep us “in suspense.” Well, now the suspense is warranted. Clinton is winning the popular vote 48%-46%, and there are urgent questions about the state counts.

Steve Bannon: Where was the outrage in August?

I started writing about the alarming hire of Steve Bannon back in August when it was announced. The critique is not manufactured partisan spin after the election. Many Republicans were horrified by the hire in August. Where was the media back then? Why was this not a bigger deal during the campaign?  Here is what I wrote on Aug. 18 upon hearing that news:
“This is the bottom line of the Trump campaign shake-up:
This campaign is going to get even uglier and nastier. Bannon is a bare-knuckle Tea Party brawler who runs right-wing Breitbart Media, and he has been pushing for more anti-Clinton attacks, conspiracy theories, and white nationalism.
Bannon has been calling Trump [by phone] this summer to urge more “bare-knuckles brawl,” “brutal fights,” “gloves off,” full-scale populism/nationalism. Trump decided that the Manafort people were trying to restrain him and keep him on script, but Bannon wants to “Let Trump Be Trump!” Bannon is also known for wanting to burn down the GOP establishment, so that should be fun.
Insiders expect Bannon to push for Monica’s-blue-dress attacks and old Clinton conspiracy theories. Breitbart himself called Bannon the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party.”
Republicans say giving Bannon access to classified briefings is “insane,” and they want Obama (or the FBI or State Dept.) to move to block Trump’s briefings.  
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro wrote that under Bannon’s leadership, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website… pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.” He said that Breitbart under Bannon embraced “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.” I have followed Breitbart closely since the 2008 campaign. It started out as a right-wing news source with a pro-Israel spin. It has changed dramatically into the home of the alt-right. Bannon proudly claimed that under his leadership, Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right.” And finally, we all know what alt-right means.

I have read too many stories and racist/anti-Semitic statements in Breitbart to list them all. I have heard from apologists claiming that because Bannon was an early investor in “Seinfeld,” he can’t be an anti-Semite or a racist. Investing in Seinfeld means nothing, except to say that he is a savvy and lucky investor in a show that made fun of New York City. I loved the show. At the same time, a small part of me worried about how the rest of the country interpreted it and what the rest of the country was laughing with… or laughing at?

Michigan did not use electronic voting: There are still no credible, specific claims that the 2016 election was stolen

Alex Halderman, the highly respected computer science professor asking the Clinton campaign to seek recounts, posted an explanation early this morning. His explanation is persuasive as a general condemnation of electronic voting in any election, especially a close one. He shows how frighteningly easy it is to hack voting machines. But he does not offer specific statistical claims about the 2016 presidential race, other than noting the Russian email hacking. He is right that we should audit and verify as a matter of public policy. Why not? But there is still no specific anecdotal or statistical evidence suggesting an actual hack or vote-rigging in this election. He does not mention the “7%” statistical shift in electronic voting towards Trump, and that’s the factual claim that seems to be generating media interest. Nate Cohn at the NY Times confirms what I’d been posting yesterday: the general pro-GOP correlation with electronic voting is probably attributable to race and class by precinct, rather than hacking. White precincts are slightly more likely to have electronic voting. See link in comments, H/t Richard Kim.
Here is my main problem with focusing on electronic voting as the way the 2016 election was stolen: the key battleground states used different voting systems. Yes, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania use electronic voting, as do many other battleground states. But Michigan (and Minnesota, NH, and Iowa) use only optical scan paper ballots, not electronic/computerized voting. Michigan’s margin and demographics were very similar to Wisconsin’s and Pennsylvania’s, and the three states’ histories of presidential voting and 2016 polling were roughly similar. In fact, Michigan had been more blue than Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, so if anything, Michigan reflects an even bigger shift to the GOP in the Midwest, regardless of voting technology. Other states with paper ballots show a consistent pattern: the state-by-state polling was inaccurately pro-Clinton, underestimating the white turnout. Minnesota (a paper ballot state) had been a deep blue state for two decades, but was razor thin this year (about 1% for Clinton, a dramatic shift to the GOP). New Hampshire (paper) was closer on election day than the polling averages. This election seems not to be a story of a failure of voting technology, but a failure of polling technology.
One more point: for a recount to make a difference, Clinton would have to overcome substantial deficits in all three states (MI, WI, and PA — 70,000 in PA alone!). And to be fair, Trump would be entitled to his own recount of New Hampshire and Minnesota. The evidence of hacking would have to be overwhelming to make any difference, and in the end, the House of Representatives would resolve such a contested election… For Trump. Let’s have an audit to verify the security of our elections. Let’s fight for voting rights and fight to get rid of insecure electronic voting. But please don’t circulate conspiracy theories of how this election was stolen, until we see detailed, hard statistical evidence suggesting otherwise. We lost the election. Let’s not lose focus on this corrupt administration and its far-right-wing transition.

Don’t cancel the third debate. The nation needs it.

First, polling news: I saw the tight ABC poll first (Clinton 47-43) and I was sad. Now the NBC poll shows double-digit lead (Clinton 48-37), and now I’m happy. Lesson: I need to stop overreacting to each individual poll.
 
I’ve seen too many calls, including the Boston Globe’s, to cancel the third debate. The nation needs the third debate now more than ever, and not because she needs to pile on. She needs to go even higher when Trump goes lower. Clinton needs to use this opportunity to look at the camera directly, address the nation about the need for unity and her commitment to represent everyone and serve everyone. Trump is building an explosive bomb. This is Clinton’s moment to calmly and respectfully defuse that bomb with a closing argument, a positive message and an appeal for legitimacy and peace. But she needs to be careful in not overreacting.
 
Here is one point I might suggest for her:
Clinton needs to remind voters of the 2000 election, when some accused Florida officials of rigging the election. Point 1: The Supreme Court gave the election to Bush in a questionable ruling, but immediately Al Gore conceded, and the country was better off. “Al Gore was a patriot and an honorable man,” or some such tribute. By only implication, Trump’s delegitimizing of the election is not patriotic and not hororable. Point 2: Every vote counts, a reminder of the damage in voting for third parties.

The storm is coming.

This is one of the things keeping me up at night, and it is starting now. The explosive mix of white nationalism, male aggression, the propaganda of global conspiracy, the rhetoric of revolution, Trump’s embrace of violence, and insane gun culture. Is it a coincidence that they are menacing a female candidate’s office? There is going to be violence, and blood will be on Trump’s hands. But the GOP leadership has aided and abetted this coming storm with their secessionist obstruction and their continuing support for Trump’s increasingly destructive campaign. There is time for the GOP to find a conscience and head off this storm, but we might be past that point by now.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-supporter-armed-protest-dem

Some good news: the tide turning on the death penalty

The Florida Supreme Court overturned a state statute that allowed a jury to impose a death sentence by a 10-2 vote.  In order to impose the death penalty, the Court ruled that a jury most be unanimous. It may not be an obviously major decision, but these jury voting rules are enormously important, especially with how we know prosecutors abuse peremptory strikes to keep minorities off the jury.  If the rules on such peremptory-strike abuses are so hard to enforce, (or just as accurately, if courts are unwilling to enforce those rules), then this unanimity rule is at least a back-up check on prosecutors.

http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2016/sc12-1947.pdf