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Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Bob and Chez Show, 11/23/16 -- Young Online Activists

Here's another podcast that Ari and I listen to religiously. Two guys bringing humor into political discussion (as much as it can be these days).

They tend to approach politics from the center-left, and are often really skeptical about conspiracy theories coming from the further left, which is why I raised my eyebrows to hear them talking today about the need to audit the election results because of the possibility of Russian interference. What they assert makes sense; the Russians are confirmed to have purposefully meddled in the election every step of the way, so why stop right before the finale?

I don't know if there was funny business going on, but during the course of the day I began to see mainstream media outlets such as The Hill, and the NY Daily News exploring the topic, and began to think a recount is as necessary as it was in 2000; win or lose, we have to be able to trust the integrity of our election results. From the Daily News:

According to a Tuesday report in New York magazine, the group — which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society — said they found evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were hacked. The group pressed Clinton to seek a recount in those states.
Members of the group told the Clinton camp that in Wisconsin, Clinton's vote count was down 7% in counties reliant on electronic voting machines as opposed to those using optical scanners and paper ballots. A statistical analysis showed that under those circumstances, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes. Clinton lost the state — and its 10 Electoral College votes — by 27,000 votes.
The Green Party has initiated an effort to audit the results in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, three states where Trump did much better than expected. As of the time I'm about to hit "Publish" on this post, they're quickly approaching $2.2 million raised at a rate of around $10,000 per minute, and they need $2.5 million by next week. Seems like they'll get there by the morning. I do not know if that money guarantees an audit. Andy Greenberg at Wired explains the mechanism of such an audit.

Performing a real, statistically valid audit of electronic voting results isn’t so hard, says MIT’s Rivest. Auditing the entire national election would require checking about half a percent of paper ballots against electronic results, he and University of Berkeley statistician Philip Stark have found. For a states with close margin, like this election’s results in Wisconsin or Michigan, the audit would need a bigger random sample, but hardly a full recount. Rivest says that statisticians could perform an audit of just 2.3 percent of the ballots in Wisconsin, 11 percent of the ballots in Michigan, or just .7 percent of the ballots in Pennsylvania and determine if the results were correct with 95% certainty. (If they were found to be incorrect, Rivest notes, the audit would be expanded.)
Nate Silver and Nate Cohn both say we shouldn't get our hopes up, and I'm inclined to agree with them. It really seems that there were unexpected factors that made Trump outperform expectations.

CNN is also reporting that the efforts to turn the 37 electoral voters needed to overturn the results and elect Hillary are continuing; from what I've heard, they're up to six -- more than I would've expected -- with still nearly a month to go. While that seems anti-democratic, the Electoral College itself is anti-democratic, and the Republicans have embraced pretty much every undemocratic measure under the sun -- voter supression, voter ID laws, gerrymandering... at least we know that if we win, we will try to turn all of that around, not just because it helps us, but because it's clearly the right thing to do. I can't think of any reason all Americans shouldn't vote, nor any reason that each person shouldn't have equal representation.

But either way, there really is something wrong with the system if someone with 2,000,000+ more votes (and counting) can lose an election.

UPDATE (11/24/16, 2:54 AM ET): They reached their goal! Good stuff. At worst, it'll delay things for Trump and the Republicans. Every day we can buy is a day they can't do the terrible things they want to do.