...and rages as recounts advance in three states
Wisconsin officials this week began a recount of the state’s nearly 3 million presidential election votes, following a last-minute filing by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who is also seeking recounts in the closely contested states of Michigan and Pennsylvania. Stein has alleged that there were unspecified voting irregularities on Election Day and that Russian hackers may have interfered with voting machines, but she has not provided any evidence for the claims. President-elect Donald Trump won the three states by a combined margin of 100,000 votes; if all three flipped to Hillary Clinton—a highly unlikely scenario, given that past statewide recounts have tended to shift only a few hundred votes—the defeated Democratic nominee, who currently leads the popular vote by nearly 2.4 million votes, would claim an Electoral College victory. After Stein raised $6.6 million to pay for the recounts, Clinton’s campaign agreed to join the process. The recount deadline is Dec. 13, six days before the Electoral College votes are formally certified.
In a series of angry tweets, Trump called the recounts a Green Party “scam,” and accused Clinton of hypocrisy for questioning the election’s integrity. In an unprecedented move for a president-elect, Trump asserted without evidence that there had been “serious voter fraud” in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California, all of which Clinton won. He also claimed he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
What the editorials said
Trump is right to call these recounts a farce, said the New York Post. There is virtually zero chance even one of the states will flip to Clinton, let alone all three. Stein is simply pandering to “liberal hysteria over Trump’s win” to raise funds and build up a huge database of “suckers” for future donation appeals. The hypocrisy of the Left is astonishing, said The Wall Street Journal. Before the election, Democrats slammed Trump for claiming the election was “rigged”; now, “the same crowd” is echoing his exact words.
Stein definitely shouldn’t be sowing “unfounded doubts” over the integrity of the election, said The Washington Post. But Trump’s “incendiary charge” that millions of noncitizens voted is even more worrisome. The U.S. already makes it “too difficult for citizens to cast their votes,” with restrictive registration, limited early voting, and long lines. “If Trump’s preoccupation with phantom voting fraud is any indication,” he may well seek to decrease ballot access even further.
What the columnists said
Trump didn’t win the election “by means that most people would consider fair and square,” said Amanda Marcotte in Salon.com. He lost the popular vote; there is “compelling evidence” that Moscow interfered by releasing hacked emails from senior Democrats; and strict voting laws crafted by Republican state lawmakers almost certainly depressed Democratic turnout. That being said, the rules are the rules—and Stein won’t find anything “lurking in the data of some Wisconsin voting machine.” Liberals need to abandon their “wishful thinking,” said Bruce Shapiro in TheNation.com. Disputing clear results will simply “escalate the dangerously paranoid post-election atmosphere” and “distract from addressing systemic issues like voter disenfranchisement and the Electoral College.”
I’m actually in favor of the recounts, said Nate Silver in FiveThirty Eight.com. The chances of uncovering “deliberate and widespread fraud” are infinitesimally small—swinging a national ballot through nefarious means would require a conspiracy of unimaginably large proportions. But a thorough audit may at least put to bed any lingering doubts people have over the integrity of this divisive election. “More information is better.”
Not always, said Megan McArdle in BloombergView.com. Both sides—those backing the recount as well as those defending Trump’s baseless allegations about illegal voters—see themselves engaged in “a vitally important fight for the future of the country.” Their passion is admirable, but they need to consider the “pit of doom that awaits any country that cannot figure out how to settle its disputes by politics.” All that’s between us and that pit is “the safety net of civic institutions, like the legitimacy of election results.” Tearing that net apart is a sure path to “lawlessness” and “autocracy.”