How Real Is Voter Fraud in US Elections?

With Jill Stein’s quixotic recount demands and President-Elect Trump’s unprovable claims of fraud against him in the 2016 Presidential Elections, we once again have a partisan argument that will go nowhere.

Stein’s recount demands in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, are supposedly based on claims by a computer expert that fraud is technically possible. Added to that is media speculation that Russia could have hacked vote counts in key precincts. Since voting machines aren’t connected to the internet and are too widely distributed to be hacked effectively, this imaginary scenario is a non-starter.

Unfortunately, all of these fraud claimants are only addressing vote count issues. The real probability of voter fraud is corruption in voter registration. Though thirty-one states require some form of voter ID, nineteen states and the District of Columbia require none. The states that do not require voter ID include California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania who together earn 159 electoral votes that traditionally go to Democrats.

FullFinal-TVTW071016Democrats point out that there are relatively few reported cases of voter fraud. False registrants, however, are nearly impossible to detect. No one knows the extent of this problem. A voter-by-voter investigation would consume millions of dollars in large states and would represent a waste of money and take years to complete.

Party officials vigorously fight any proposed legislation requiring a voter ID at the polls, on the grounds that they are somehow racist. The political narrative is that poor people may not have a means of acquiring a photo ID if they do not have transportation to the registration site where photos are taken.

These claims are questionable at best. If people have a means of traveling to the polls, couldn’t they travel to have an ID created? Couldn’t the same political parties that drive people to the polls provide a small group of volunteers to drive people to the ID creation site?

The resistance to voter ID laws does not in of itself imply that the officials in these states are suborning voter fraud. It’s more likely that they don’t want to spend the money required to implement a program that cannot help them politically. Nevertheless, their stubbornness on this issue leaves elections open to possible chicanery.

How does registration fraud occur? There are several different scenarios:

– Voters die , but their names remain on the voter registration rolls. Enterprising political operatives can use computer technology to scan databases to identify deceased names that remain and send substitute voters to replace them.

– People register in one area, relocate and mistakenly register again, sometimes with a different name, e.g. a new married name. The previous registration remains open for a fraudulent voter.

– College students at age 18, register while still living with their parents; then register again at a college in a different county or state.

– Political operatives recruit unregistered people, often non-citizens, provide necessary information on election day, and pay them a small amount of money to vote according to instructions.

Regardless of party, the only sane solution is requiring a voter ID with a photo. The US government needs to sponsor legislation and funds enabling all states to implement such a program before the next Presidential election.

Personal disclosure: I have investigated this issue by serving as a poll judge and poll watcher in three different elections in California. Though I am an independent, middle-of-the-road voter with no party affiliations, I am convinced that many voters I observed were not legally registered. The registration process appears to be slipshod at best.

Will Our Next President Be A Woman?

The Presidential Election of 2016 is now history. Behind the scenes, however, political leaders have already begun positioning candidates for the next election, whether in 2020 or 2024.

Regardless of party or ideology, one or both of the next nominees should be women.

Despite rhetoric claiming a glass ceiling and anti-woman bias, the voting public has been ready for a female president for at least 20 years. Ironically, the primary roadblock to potential female presidential candidates has been Hillary Clinton. Other women, potentially more electable candidates, have been on the sidelines since the end of Bill Clinton’s term. The big-money power brokers have done everything possible to insist that the former Secretary of State be the first woman President. All other women have had to wait for their turn.

Mrs. Clinton had two opportunities and therefore blocked chances for other women, since 2001. Her mantra was “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” That makes little sense to most voters. Tens of millions of Americans have voted for women and elected them as governors, senators, and big-city mayors. Many other women have been leaders of some of America’s largest and most successful companies. America has become very comfortable with female leaders in virtually every profession.

We don’t want a political candidate to say “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” We may be inspired, however, if she says, “Vote for me because I have the vision, leadership, policies, attitude, and capability to run the US Government.” Her gender is not an issue, any more than it would be for a man.

Both parties have excellent female candidates, any of whom could be the next president. Following is a list of twelve women, all strong leaders. Any of them could win the presidency with a powerful campaign. They range widely in age, but all are “in the ballpark.” The youngest woman in the group will have more government experience in 2020 than Senator Obama had when he ran in 2008. The eldest has a long resume of leadership positions and is approximately the same age as Hillary Clinton.

In alphabetical order:

Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Joni Ernst
Former CEO Carly Fiorina
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Maggie Hassan
Governor Nikki Haley
US Representative Mia Love
Governor Susana Martinez
Former Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
Senator Elizabeth Warren

FullFinal-TVTW071016This group of twelve includes six Democrats and six Republicans. Ideologically they extend from the Progressive Left to the Conservative Right. This group includes two African Americans, one Pacific Islander, one Latina, and one Indian. As a group, they “look like America.”

America needs to elect women like these to serve as our President. Voters should send a signal to the rest of the world that we don’t marginalize any group because of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity. It’s time to assure every American child, male or female, that she or he has an equal opportunity to be heard and to lead.

Has Senator Barbara Boxer Read the US Constitution?

usconstitution

An Open Letter to Senator Barbara Boxer

Dear Senator Boxer:

Along with many of your other constituents, I was surprised to hear that you have introduced a bill that would abolish the Electoral College.

Perhaps you have forgotten Article Two of our Constitution that states:

“Citizens of the United States vote in each state at a general election to choose a slate of “electors” pledged to vote for a party’s candidate. The candidates who receive an absolute majority of electoral votes among the states are elected President and Vice-President of the United States when the Electoral College vote is certified by Congress.”

Apparently, you are proposing to amend the Constitution, to meet your desired political outcomes. As you know amending the Constitution is possible, though a path to ratifying an amendment is deliberately long and difficult. Since 1789 there have been 11,539 proposed amendments, and only 27 have become part of the Constitution.

To propose a Constitutional amendment, the Congress must send it to the State Legislatures for a decision. For the Senate and the House to request a vote by the Legislatures, the proposal must pass by two-thirds (a supermajority) vote of both chambers of Congress. Alternatively, Congress can call for a National Convention, which also requires a two-thirds supermajority and request participation of two-thirds of the State Legislatures.

If Congress achieves the supermajority and requires the States to vote on a proposed amendment, three-fourths of the states (38) would have to pass the amendment to ratify it.

FullFinal-TVTW071016An amendment that scraps the Electoral College would effectively disenfranchise thirty-eight states and effectively leave California and New York voters to choose most future presidents. Few legislatures would vote to effectively relinquish their political power to produce this outcome.

I’m sure that you would not want to take your party onto that multi-year, quixotic path to defeat. Perhaps then, you are part of that fringe group that believes that strict adherence to the Consitution is an out-of-date concept.

Many of us—probably a majority—would respectfully disagree with that notion. Now, more than ever before, America needs a compass to guide our future. Progressives and Conservatives alike need the protection of a single authoritative framework of laws to prevent knee-jerk political machinations that would harm us, set one group against the other, and create chaos. We have already seen how partisan politics can cripple our government. Imagine an America without the Constitution of the United States as its moral guidepost.

Very truly yours,

Steve Vachss
California Voter

Hillary’s Surrogates and Endorsements

nine-thumbs4Since the stunning election surprise of Trump’s victory, we have heard countless experts, pundits, historians, and politicians explaining how Trump won. They point to strategic mistakes, failure to understand the anger of the electorate, polling errors and many other aspects of electoral politics. Nevertheless, they seem to overlook one of the most important differences in the two campaigns: the surrogates and endorsers.

Hillary Clinton had the highest quality and deepest bench of surrogates that we have ever seen. Her campaign could call on the President of the United States, the First Lady, the Vice President, Former President Clinton, Senators Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. She had active “A List” celebrities like JZ, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Barbra Streisand and others who performed on her behalf, and countless others who publically endorsed her.

To better understand what happened, ask yourself: “If I wanted to win the heart of someone, would I send a close friend to romance him or her?” “If I thought that someone didn’t like me, would I bring someone who overshadows me on a date?” “If I was trying to win a new job, would I send someone famous to the interview instead of going myself?” “Would I bring entertainers to a date or interview, hoping that their celebrity would become mine?”

FullFinal-TVTW071016Obviously, the point is that celebrity surrogates or endorsements are ineffective in improving a candidate’s popularity. They may seem attractive, but they just do not work.

Hillary’s “enthusiasm numbers” remained steady and low during the entire campaign. Speeches by the President repeated thousands of times the throughout the country had no effect. While Democrats touted the Clinton “ground game,” voter enthusiasm—much higher for Trump—brought more people to the polls. The rest is history.

Ballot Bombs Can Affect Your Life

Had enough of ridiculous political candidates? Then think of the rest of the ballot, the part that can affect you personally—those sneaky ballot measures.

tempblackframeVisualize this. You wait in line to vote for your chosen nominee after months of repetitive hype. You mark a ballot for your candidate, then select many others for lesser offices, most of whom you don’t recognize. Then you get to those long, wordy choices called ballot measures, initiatives, or propositions.

You read one or two of them and realize you don’t understand the possible impact of “YES” or “NO.” Many voters stop at that point and submit their ballots. Others believe they must enter a vote, and guess at the impact of their choices. A relatively small group—perhaps ten percent—have seen an ad for or against a specific measure and make an impulsive choice.

Finally, ten percent who are ardent believers for or against a measure make an informed choice. They might be environmentalists, education advocates, advocates for homeless people, or any of dozens of other groups who believe their state should add or change a law.

FullFinal-TVTW071016Most voters have no idea of what they have chosen, or how that choice will affect their lives. In many cases, the passage of a ballot measure will have a direct impact on every citizen in the state. Voters are effectively writing laws, many of which will have unexpected consequences.

Twenty-five states, including my state of California, add these additional decisions to our ballots. Our votes on a ballot measure may raise taxes, release criminals from prison, determine education quality for children, or any of hundreds of other areas that affect our lives.

Ballot measures were probably noble ideas when they first became part of the electoral process. Over time, however, politicians and organizations have discovered sneaky ways to use them to end-run the legislative process. They often have measures written by scholarly attorneys who know the legal definition of words that may differ from general use. They also use trickery such as double negatives that confuse the meaning of sentences. Hapless voters often misunderstand the wording and vote for or against measures in error.

An interesting example is the infamous California “Prop 8.”

The official title of Prop 8 was: Proposition 8 – Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. On November 4, 2008, voters approved the measure and made same-sex marriage illegal in California. A federal judge later ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution.

Personal disclosure: I voted against Prop 8. My vote was against the government regulating personal marriage choices for anyone. It was neither for nor against same-sex marriage, per se, though it effectively supported it.

After a deluge of TV ads for and against Prop 8, many voters became confused. Understanding that the measure dealt with same-sex marriage, many people favoring same-sex marriage voted for the proposition. Many people who were against same-sex marriage, voted against Prop 8. As a result, it was impossible to tell whether voters really supported or rejected the proposition.

California voters will see seventeen different ballot measures on November 8. They all need some study before each voter makes an informed decision. Some of them have had high volume advertising campaigns, for and against them. Advertising in some cases has been so sleazy, that many voters know less now than they knew before the advertising campaigns. Costs for this advertising will reach $450-million, according to the Los Angeles Times

Issues that Californians will vote on include marijuana legalization, gun control, healthcare and drug prices, condoms in porn, plastic bags, repealing or altering the death penalty, tobacco taxes, and several county tax or bond measures.

Voters need to understand how these measures reach the ballot. Measures are often unpalatable to elected lawmakers in state senates and assemblies. Often a large company or advocacy group uses a ballot measure to go around the legislators if it will increase their profits or gain some kind of social impact.

Ballot measures begin with petitions, often hawked by unknowledgeable volunteers or sales people. They approach busy shoppers outside of high-traffic stores with little more than a slogan like, “Please sign to feed hungry, homeless children.” When the army of petition carriers has enough signatures to reach the total required by law, most states require some form of legal review. Once the review declares the measure legal, there is usually a process to validate the petition signatures. However, some states waive the signature validation for a fee. Most measures can pass those hurdles easily. Many people don’t recall signing, and some sign without realizing that they are initiating a law-making process.

Memo to voters in states with ballot measures: Be wary of the impact of your perfunctory “Yes” or “No.” The proposition you validate or invalidate may affect your life for many years.

Who’s Guilty of Destroying this Election?

fullpicThe 2016 presidential election has embarrassed America and disgusted voters. According to the Economist, a widely respected weekly news magazine, the expenditures of this election may reach five billion dollars, making it nearly twice as expensive as the election of 2012. The result of that cost will be the election of one of the two most reviled candidates in history.

What happened? How did we descend from relative effectiveness to the disgraceful level we have experienced in 2016? Who is responsible for destroying one of the must cherished institutions of our democracy?

The apparent guilty parties are Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the news media. Others might include the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. However, the RNC is no more inept than in previous years. The DMC too has been its usual unprincipled self. Nothing has changed for these two archaic organizations.

The Case Against Donald Trump:
Trump’s opponents have accused him of countless iniquities, many of which are manufactured fables. However, there is one overarching negative that has made this character assassination plausible. As a candidate, Donald Trump is stupid. He may have a high IQ, but he continually expresses himself with language that blows up in his face. That’s worse than stupid.

After more than a year of campaigning, Trump hasn’t understood that the language he uses to gain attention can be weaponized and turned back on him as a far more powerful destructive force. For example, in an early speech about illegal immigrants, Trump said.

“When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”

FullFinal-TVTW071016Trump was speaking about illegal immigrants. He was not castigating all Mexicans. Speaking off-the-cuff, he was obviously careless and foolish. In politics, that’s stupid. He made the statement once, but TV cable news repeated their versions of it thousands of times without consulting his original remarks. As a result, the public believes headlines like “Trump says all Mexicans are rapists.”

Trump has made countless other inartful statements. Many of those statements suffered the same kind of sensationalist interpretation. The voting public heard only the interpretation, repeated thousands of times within a week. Is Trump a racist? Is he an Islamaphobe? Is he a misogynist? Probably not. But he is apparently too stubborn to learn from his constant verbal mistakes. He’s a paranoid candidate who sometimes seems to have Turret syndrome. And in politics, that makes him stupid.

The Case Against Hillary Clinton:
Secretary Clinton’s supporters proclaim that she is a highly skilled executive with a glittering resume. Few people would challenge her resume. Moreover, there is no evidence to deny or confirm that she is a skilled executive. Why, then, do virtually all polls indicate that she is untrustworthy? Before Trump became a candidate, polls indicated that the former secretary may have been the most disliked politician in America.

The reason for dislike of Clinton is that she habitually lies. One poll asked respondents to choose one word to describe each of several politicians. The most common word chosen to describe Secretary Clinton was “liar.” There are many documented instances of her lying. There are videos of her lying. There are videos of her lying about previous lies.
To be fair, Clinton probably makes many true statements that are positively brilliant. Unfortunately, however, voters can never be sure if she’s telling the truth.

The Case Against the TV News Organizations:
Whether Clinton or Trump wins on November 8, TV news organizations will have enriched themselves to historically high levels. They have sold high-priced advertising in high volumes, with no serious competition. While earning this gigantic windfall, they have simultaneously lowered their expenses, by pulling their reporters from legitimate news beats and assigning them to the political campaigns where travel and other expenses are minimal.

To make this financial bonanza possible, news organizations have needed to keep their audiences tuned to their political programming. The only way to maintain their audiences has been to make each nugget of political information sensational, uplifting them to visibility far greater than their actual importance. This has forced the candidates, especially Trump, to constantly criticize individual reporters for unfair media bias. Though media people have been unquestionably biased toward the left, their behavior is consistent with levels of previous elections. The difference is behind the scenes. Program planning and story selection seem to be under the heavy hand of management people who have placed financial greed above news integrity.

The Final Verdict
An election season that most voters view with disgust has been the confluence of multiple misfortunes. We have seen a GOP primary with seventeen candidates destroying each other’s credibility so that the candidate with the most destructive rhetoric was the last one standing. The media narrative that Trump had somehow tapped the national anger was partially true. But the stronger GOP candidates—people like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich— were victims of a bloated primary slate and an entertaining character assassin.

On the Democrat side, we saw a seventy-four-year-old Socialist nearly overtake a pre-selected candidate expecting a coronation. This unexpected challenge to the DNC’s inner circle of power required a series of unscrupulous actions to ensure their nominee’s victory.

Though the foolish behavior of both parties was distasteful, it was a series of minor sideshows that the news media reported as breaking news. After their treatment of the primaries, the news media needed to elevate the final race to new levels of sensationalism.

Though blame for devaluing the American electoral process has many owners, it seems fair to assign the largest portion of the blame to the news media.

Insights from Inside the Bunker August 13, 2016

(Next issue of Insights from Inside the Bunker will be November 12—just after Election Day. I may write about non-political issues in the interim, but the current avalanche of senseless political rhetoric drowns out all voices, whether serious or satirical.)

How Will a New Unpopular President from Either Party Affect US?

Media people continually remind us that the 2016 election cycle is different from any that we have ever seen. Repeating that mantra, however, does little to project our future beyond November 8. On that day, we will see one of the two most disliked politicians in recent memory declared a winner and the next President of the United States.

FullFinal-TVTW071016Along with a powerful and difficult position, every President enters a relationship with the public that is somewhat like a marriage. To extend the marriage metaphor, we can think of the media as that noisy friend who fixes someone up to date a person that he or she doesn’t especially like and continually praises that “significant other” until the couple agrees to marry. Early in the marriage, the bride and groom try to see only the positive parts of the relationship. But often, a slow, downward trajectory begins, punctuated by temporary uplifting moments, and an equal number of low points. After a few years, one or both of these people may have had enough and dreams of better opportunities.

In most marriages, both parties enter with attitudes that are at least somewhat optimistic, if not euphoric. In the same way, a new President usually enters his or her new relationship with positive feelings and high public support. But on January 20, 2017, the new President’s inauguration day, it will be difficult or impossible, to begin a Presidency with optimism. Considering the negative ratings for both candidates, the public is likely to consider the new President to be either an untrustworthy liar or a dangerous race-baiter.

Though rocky at times, President Obama’s relationship with America provides a much more favorable comparison. After inauguration in January 2009, his overall approval rating was a high 67 percent. America loved him. He was young, looked good, sounded good, was smart, and had a beautiful family. The honeymoon had begun. By September, however, his rating had dropped to about 50 percent. A year later, the rating had dropped to the low forties, with the saga of Obamacare, and in 2012, the perceived dishonesty about Benghazi. But he beat Mitt Romney in 2012 and his rating popped back up to 53 percent. Americans like a winner. Nevertheless, the rating drifted down to the low forties again and was up-and-down for the next year or two. In the past few months, it has risen slowly back up over fifty percent. This apparent improvement may be due to voters comparing him to the current two candidates to succeed him. (“Maybe he wasn’t as bad as the next President will be!”)

Approval-Chart

But what would his approval rating have been if his tenure had begun with a rating of only 40 percent instead of 67 percent? If the rating had receded at the same rate, he might have ended his presidency at 25 percent or even lower.

TTWW-FB-041516A President with a public approval rating that fluctuates between 40 and 25 percent will not be able to govern effectively. For example, Congress would be unlikely to implement tax cuts or capital spending for any major initiatives. The media would crush every decision on nightly newscasts. Muckrakers would “pile on,” dig up trivial negatives and blow them up to become major stories every day.

Can either candidate escape that fate if he or she wins the Presidency? It will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, for President Hillary Clinton to gain broad public support and become an effective leader. To use the marriage metaphor again, once a spouse has lied about big things, he or she is never trusted again. Certainly, President Clinton would always have many middle-aged or older women on her side since she represents a symbolic victory for women who suffered from various inequities on past years. But that group is not large enough to sustain broad popularity.

As for President Trump, he too would find governing nearly impossible. He would have to overcome an image of racism against Hispanics and Muslims, by demonstrating positive actions. If he does that, however, he might lose his core constituency of Caucasian men who adhere to his rants against political correctness. And he would have to ignore sideshows of fighting anyone who criticizes him. He hasn’t yet demonstrated that he can resist the urge to fight back.

Is America at a crossroads where we need to change the way we elect Presidents? In the words of the great Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

 

The Curious Case of Bernie Sanders

Has anyone seen Bernie lately? No one remembers seeing him in the days before his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. An hour after his speech, BernieBernie was apparently gone, and no one has seen him since. There have been a few “official statements” purportedly from Senator Sanders. And there have been a few video clips released by the DNC. No one knows, however, if the videos are current.

Bernie’s whereabouts seemed to be a mystery, until yesterday. The only clue was the “hostage video” tone of his convention speech. Many of his supporters believe he spoke under pressure.

One enterprising investigative reporter found Bernie, in an undisclosed hotel room, somewhere in the Philadelphia area. A strong Bernie supporter, she located the hotel and learned the room number from a hotel employee she had met at a “Feel the Bern” rally.

Knocking on the door of Bernie’s hotel room, she heard a raspy voice whisper. “Is that you, Jane?” asked Bernie, hoping to see his wife.

“No, I’m not Jane,” the reporter answered, “I’m one of your loyal followers who would like to chat with you.”

A grim-faced Sanders opened the door and invited the reporter to come in.

“What happened, Bernie,” she asked incredulously. “You look like a victim of a mugging. Why are you locked up here?”

Sanders vacillated for a few moments, speaking in uncharacteristic non-answers. Then he dropped all pretense and told his story.

DNCLogo“Everything was fine as the Convention opened,” he began. “I was here in my room when two thugs from the DNC knocked and said they had a message from the Chairwoman. I let them in, and they immediately became violent. One twisted my arm painfully behind my back. The other grabbed my eyeglasses from my face and smashed the lenses against that table.

“In the next few minutes, they seemed to calm down and said they wanted to chat and to have a drink with me. We sat down at the table, and one of them took liquor bottle miniatures from the mini bar and mixed a drink for each of us.

Bernie-Glasses“We then had our so-called chat, which was just a series of demands and threats. They wanted me to endorse Hillary and apologize to the DNC. Of course, I resisted. So they stood up in unison and said it’s time for “Plan B.” They threw me on the bed, handcuffed and leg-cuffed me.

“They must have known that I’m practically blind without my glasses, but they also lowered the lights. As they left, I know others entered the room, but everything was a vague blur. I then became so sleepy, that I couldn’t stay awake. They must have put something into that drink I sipped. In a semi-conscious state I was aware of someone lying on top of me, and saw a photo flash, before everything went dark.

“When I awoke the next morning, my clothes were gone. I lay there helplessly, until the two thugs came back, uncuffed me, and offered me a cup of coffee. Now they seemed friendly until they showed me photos of myself with a strange woman, whose face turned away from the camera. I knew I hadn’t taken part in anything untoward. The pictures had to be photoshopped. But I did notice a faint scent of strange perfume and sweat.

“The two men told me that these pictures would be all over social media if I didn’t cooperate. They handed me an envelope containing that surrender speech I gave at the convention and promised to escort me to and from the speaker’s platform. And they informed me that I would remain in this room for the next two weeks.

DWS-Mask“I complied with their orders, still thinking of how I could escape from this situation. Then they gave me a new pair of eyeglasses, and I looked at the pictures, especially at the unclothed woman, who I now recognized. I was immediately sickened and nearly vomited. I couldn’t believe it! It was THAT WOMAN!! She’s a female Bill Cosby! And I thought she only rigged elections!