The 2016 Election Audit: Explained

I was in too much shock the day after the election to think there was any way Trump would not become president. It’s not an idea that I like to entertain, even now, because it denies the reality of the harm he, his Cabinet, and Congress will cause to many Americans come January. In the days after the election, I blamed the election results on the racism, xenophobia, and ignorance of white Americans. Then I added the overcoverage of Trump in media to the mix. And finally, I considered the possible impediments to accurate vote counting methods, a lack of easy access to the polls, and the electoral college as straws that broke the camel’s back. In conjunction with reactions against the “Not My President” protests, some may interpret the efforts by Green Party member Jill Stein as an unrealistic attempt to reverse the outcome of the election. Stein hopes to raise enough money to initiate a recount in states where there was a narrow gap between votes for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. At the very least, the audit will reveal flaws in the voting process that could be fixed for future elections, and may provide evidence of vote tampering.

My home state of Michigan officially went to Trump on November 22nd, nearly two weeks after Election Day. We have a Republican governor, but we’re not quite Republican enough to be considered a swing state. This is very similar to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, both blue in recent history. All three states are undergoing a recount or will start the recount soon after Jill Stein has filed for one in each state.

Recounting ballots takes money and volunteers. Votes are accounted for by hand or recounted again through machines to ensure that the machines that tallied votes were not tampered with. There is no evidence that anyone has hacked voting machines, but it is a concern that originated in Russian interference in favor of Trump prior to Election Day. In order for a recount to happen, Stein has to pay the state. For this reason, the target amount to raise has increased dramatically from the beginning of the campaign, now $9.5 million. Unfortunately, the speed of donations to the cause is slowing. It is unlikely any other states will be added to the list of states to be recounted. Recounts in each state will finish around mid December, a month before Donald Trump would be inaugurated.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the difference in the number of votes between candidates prior to recounts has historically been much lower than the seemingly narrow gap between Clinton and Trump in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So the odds are certainly stacked against Stein and supporters of the recount. After the recount effort, there could be a push to reform the electoral college, voters’ rights, and the election process. Except, given that outrage among Democrats over the primary system has almost completely diminished since the summer, I doubt the left will effectively push for reform on this front.

John Oliver’s segment takes a look at just one aspect of the voting process that needs to be changed. If nothing else, disillusioned voters can make moving Election Day next on their voting rights agenda. Usually, moving forward requires looking back. So I don’t find that to be the issue with the recount—however, the recount could become even more of a distraction from more important news stories, such as Donald Trump’s conflicting business operations overseas. I hope a significant finding will come out of the recount so that the activist effort doesn’t stop mid-December. Alternatively, I hope the mobilization of recount supporters can translate to (more pressing) human rights abuses, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and immigrant rights.

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