Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Rigged Elections in Michigan? Nah.

The August 14th Detroit Free Press (Freep) carried an oped by Tim Kiska a journalism professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and who worked for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News alternatively from 1970 to 2002. Mr Kiska's oped is in response to GOP nominee Donald Trump's claim that the November election processes are rigged.
"Republican Presidential  candidate Donald Trump has raised the possibility of a "rigged" election in November although it's unclear how he meant the comment."
The print edition of the Freep is headlined " Rigged election? Tough to pull off in Michigan." From this headline a reader may easily assume the oped will be about the myriad ways to rig an election. Not so. Mr. Kiska confines his oped to just two ways to rig an election, voter fraud by actual voters and hacking the tabulating machines that count the votes.

First, let me say I don't doubt Mr Kiska's credentials:
"I know something about the procedures because I've run exit polls and election night operations at one time or another for the Free Press, The Detroit News and each of Detroit's television stations in every election but two since 1974."
He goes on to say:
"There are so many sets of eyes looking at the voting process, the machinery so locked up--literally locked up--that even the savviest hacker would have difficulty cracking the code."
And:
"But the biggest barriers to election fraud may be a simple piece of paper, and humble precinct workers--who are paid barely above minimum wage, but are there out of a sense of old fashion patriotism and service, and are hell bent on doing the job right."

 I can agree with this but only up to a point. Michigan still uses the paper ballot which as he mentions, is hard to corrupt. But, as also mentioned, it uses an electronic tabulating machine for which there is some history of corruption.

There are reports that some of these machines do not count each vote as one vote but are wired to treat each vote as a percentage of the precinct's total voter makeup regardless of the actual votes cast. This of course is dishonest because it violates the one man, one vote principle. If the tabulators are wired this way legally, it's wrong and needs to be stopped. If not done legally, how come the many sets of eyes haven't seen it?

A recent expose' by Project Veritas shows how easy it was for journalistic investigators to obtain the ballots of people like Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Freep staff writer Nancy Kaffer, Mi state Senator David Robertson, and rapper Eminem among others without showing ID. Some of them claim to have gotten ballots of dead people.

What was exposed was not so much actual voter fraud but how easy it was to commit such fraud if one was inclined to do so. It was revealing that the powers that be wanted to prosecute the Veritas people for exposing election weaknesses instead of fixing those weaknesses. Evidently, 'hell bent on doing the job right' applies to the poll workers but not their bureaucrats.

There is plenty of evidence of possible election rigging in various places nationally, which is what concerns Mr.  Trump, like for  example some precincts having more people vote than were registered to vote, or where not one vote for Romney was cast in 2012 or where there were investigations of discrepancies with the electronic touch screen machines.
"There was little or no evidence presented in the various federal court cases decided this summer that showed this to be a widespread problem."
But election rigging does not need to be widespread to be effective. Savvy campaign operatives know which states will probably be important swing states and which counties and precincts within them will carry swing voters. It is these on which they will want to focus their fraudulent efforts.

Mr Kiska gives an accurate and detailed account of how a ballot goes through the Michigan voting process. It is however an idyllic picture of how he sees the process actually working the way it should. But as the saying goes; "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" 

I'm sure that the vast majority of poll workers in Michigan actually are "hell bent on doing the job right." But we would be wise to remember that other adage about roads and "good intentions." Wouldn't we?