In Mark Harris’ 1956 novel “Bang the Drum Slowly,” New York Mammoth’s star pitcher Henry Wiggin threatens to sit out the season. Management tells him to go ahead because the team can win without him. He responds, “Sure, if God drops everything else.”
God would indeed have to “drop everything else” to enable President Trump to renew his lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for another four years. The odds against a combination of recounts and lawsuits reversing the results in enough states to accomplish this are that long.
Nonetheless, the president should insist that the irregularities his team has unearthed be investigated. He and his lawyers should continue to seek an honest and accurate vote count because voters deserve to know. What’s going on now in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin is not just about 2020, but the future. If Mr. Trump were to simply concede, the Democrats in office would work to dismantle what few safeguards of Election Day integrity still exist. With media support they will continue to insist that:
a. there was no vote fraud.
b. if there was fraud it is “not widespread” enough to be of great concern and
c. there is no evidence that whatever cheating that has been discovered affected an outcome of the 2016 or any other race.
While historians can argue about whether any U.S. presidential elections have ever been “stolen,” it should remembered that many observers believe to this day that the late Mayor Richard J. Daley rigged the vote in Chicago in 1960 to deliver Illinois’ deciding electoral votes to John F. Kennedy. Kennedy who might otherwise have lost that race to Richard Nixon.
Many Democrats claim that both George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 were “illegitimate presidents” because they cheated. There are dozens of instances at lower levels where voter fraud has been proven and election results overturned.
Believers in the democratic process should be outraged about voter fraud in all its forms. A few votes in a close race do make a difference and every stolen vote weakens the power of all legitimate voters. We should support the transparency needed to convince the skeptical of the honesty of our election and take measures to ferret out wrongdoing wherever it exists. Dismissing cheating as unimportant or denying its very existence enables cheaters to continue and to expand their cheating.
Academic studies of electoral cheating tend to focus on cheating and election rigging abroad, and this country through the State Department’s Agency for International Development spends millions of dollars to help other countries adopt rules and practices to prevent illegal voting.
We pay for voter identification cards, help countries develop ways to identify those who have voted so they won’t try to vote again, and help train poll watchers to prevent cheating as votes are being cast and counted. It is at our suggestion that voters in many foreign nations emerge from polling places with purple dye on their finger to demonstrate that they have voted, to maximize the possibility that elections will be “free and fair” and to build public faith in democratic institutions in their countries.
Many of the election security measures we promote abroad are dismissed at home by those who say they aren’t needed here.
Interestingly, a study of the impact of poll watchers on the 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia of all places was able to quantify the fraudulent vote there with lessons that should apply everywhere. A team led by a scholar from Princeton and one from the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics randomly assigned independent observers to monitor ballot handling and counting in Moscow, and measured the differences in votes in voting stations with and without observers or poll watchers.
The United Russia Party that year received 46.6% of the overall vote in the city that year, but in “precincts” with poll watchers the party got 10.8% fewer votes than in similar precincts without poll watchers. The researchers concluded that poll watchers made a measurable difference.
Although the researchers said that at some polling stations their poll watchers were not allowed to see what was going on, were denied entry or were thrown out when they questioned irregularities, their mere presence measurably reduced the cheating that plagued other Moscow precincts that year.
Whether voter fraud can be demonstrated in a court of law is one thing, but statistical analyses and anecdotal evidence suggest that thousands of votes in key states were cast by voters who had moved, by voters who voted more than once or who had died or claimed someone else voted their ballots.
If what happened is not investigated it will happen again, undermine public faith in our democracy to further erode and put us through another four years in which half of the American people believe their president is illegitimate. By demanding transparency, a legitimate count and reforms that will guarantee future U.S. elections will be fair and free, Donald Trump is performing, whatever the outcome, what historians will one day see as a great public service.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.
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