The never-ending story of election recounts

Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee for president, has succeeded in getting Wisconsin to recount the votes in the recently concluded election.  She’s also seeking a recount in Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Her motives and chances for changing election results are for others to comment on.  But there’s a far more concerning factor here: the fact that 16 years after the Florida 2000 recount, America is still conducting election recounts.  They shouldn’t be necessary.

But Democrats love recounts, because they can result in overturning elections that produced GOP winners.  Democrats just keep doing recount after recount until they win, and then they shut down the recount process.

But why should the last count be more correct than the preceding ones?  In the gubernatorial election of 2004 in Washington state, Republican Dino Rossi won on Election Day with 261 votes.  He then won the first recount by 42 votes.  But after new ballots were “discovered” and a “hand recount” was held and the courts refused to consider claims of fraud, the Democrat won.  The same thing happened in the 2008 Minnesota election for U.S. senator.  On Election Day, GOP incumbent Norm Coleman had won by 725 votes.  But after “corrections” and the “discovery” of new ballots, Coleman’s lead shrank to 215 after the first week, and on it went until the Democrat prevailed.  If a recount goes on for long enough, bet on the Democrat.  (This just in: Trump’s lead just shrank to 46,000 votes in Pennsylvania; previous estimates had the President-elect ahead by 80,000 votes.)

A recount makes sense if one is trying to put a number on a moving mass, such as the number of people in a huge crowd or the number of beeves in a herd.  Such counts and recounts are approximations, as people and beeves won’t stand still to be counted.  Such imprecision, however, shouldn’t be tolerated in an election.

The term “recount” is a misnomer.  The first thing that happens in an election “recount” is an investigation.  In the Florida 2000 mess, they investigated the punch-card ballots for hanging, pregnant, and dimpled chads, and then they “interpreted” the holes to divine the voter’s intent.  Pathetic!  The claim for the current recount effort is that the voting machines have been hacked, even though they’re not online – i.e., connected to the internet.  It’ll be interesting to see if Wisconsin “discovers” any new ballots during its recount.

If a state really wanted to demonstrate that its count on Election Day was absolutely correct, the first thing it would need to prove is that everyone who voted was eligible to vote.  So take a look at the Wisconsin Voter Registration Application form and notice that they do not require a registrant’s full Social Security Number  only the last four digits.  (That is not unique to Wisconsin, by the way.)  But Wisconsin doesn’t even require those four digits if one has a driver’s license.  So how easy is it to get a driver’s license in Wisconsin?

In “States Continue to Expand Access to Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Residents” at Immigration Impact, we read that “a bill was introduced in the Wisconsin state assembly this year that would allow the over 85,000 undocumented immigrants currently residing in Wisconsin to apply for licenses.”  But in “Fact Check: Wisconsin Already Gives Driver’s Licenses to Non-Citizens” at MediaTrackers, we read: “Wisconsin already provides driver’s licenses to residents who lack a social security number.”  (Perhaps Ms. Stein thinks those 85,000 “undocumented immigrants” all voted for Trump.)

Despite America’s technological sophistication, recent news reports reveal how backward our elections systems are.  The FBI tells us that the voter registration systems in 20 states have been hacked.  Without correct voter registries, a state cannot have a fair election.  But even if there were no hacking, voter registries can still get corrupted.  Indeed, most of the “reforms” advocated by those concerned about voter participation, including the motor voter law, same-day registration, provisional ballots, and such, create chaos in registration.

The corruption in voter registration could be averted if all voter registries were created from one source and at one time.  This is what I’ve advocated for years now.  Essentially, a computer program would read through the Social Security database, draw off the information for all eligible voters, and send that data to the states.  The program would be run just before each election.  One problem with such a system is the possibility that the Social Security database could also get hacked, in which case we’d have even more problems than subverted elections.  (Gee, I hope I haven’t given any ideas to the Russians or the Chi-coms.)

A system where voter registries are created from the Social Security database would have the virtue of registering all citizens.  And it would do so without requiring the citizens to do anything other than keep the feds informed of address changes, which they’re supposed to do anyway.  Such a system should appeal to those concerned about voter participation.

An election recount is, at the very least, an indication of failure on the part of a state.  States that mandate automatic recounts in the event of extremely close elections are admitting to the insufficiency of their election systems.  Regardless of what the “recount” in Wisconsin turns up, if they can’t demonstrate that everyone who voted is an eligible U.S. citizen, the election results can’t be trusted.

The States have had 16 years since the Florida recount to fix their registration systems, and they’ve done nothing that is truly sufficient.  And that’s what’s so scandalous about this latest attempt to undo an election.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.