Saturday, June 11, 2016
Election Fraud? What Election Fraud?
In the numerous debates/arguments I've had with my Bernie supporting friends, and certain Facebook memes, I have repeatedly encountered a number - seven million. What's seven million? Allegedly, it's the number of voters who were suppressed from voting this primary election season.
Sometimes the number was six million - but that was before California and New Jersey. So, ever in search of verification of non-cited numbers, I went in search of where this figure might have come from.
Did it come from those whose voter affiliation mysteriously switched? From voters who were turned away by long lines? From fewer polling stations? From said polling stations running out of ballots? From voter I.D. laws? From registrations being mysteriously purged prior to election day?
All these things happened, and I'll address them later, but no. That's not where this figure originated from.
Now, seven million is a rather large number. It's nearly double the final-vote lead that Hillary finished with over Bernie. According to Real Clear Politics, the final vote tally (not including the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Washington State, and Alaska, who have no ballot data to share, or U.S. territories such as Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands) is Hillary 15,729,913, and Bernie 12,009,562, leaving Hillary with an estimated 3,720,351 lead. She won Iowa and Nevada, but lost Maine and Washington State, but Washington is odd in that it has both a caucus (which counts) and a primary (which doesn't). Hillary won the primary, but lost the caucus by a large margin. She won all the territorial non-state contests except for Democrats voting abroad, which Bernie won. So it might be fair to give Hillary a 4 million lead, but to be as generous to Bernie as possible, we'll call it a wash and give Hillary a closing lead of 3.7 million (going into D.C., which has yet to vote as of this writing).
So, that means that 7 million votes suppressed could easily lead to Bernie winning instead of Hillary, right?
Well, first we have to confirm that 7 million figure. Then we can get to the probabilities. Where could 7 million come from?
The likeliest source is from Independent voters who do not get to vote in states with closed primary ballots. Twelve states have closed primaries: Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. Florida alone has 3.2 million Independent voters registered. New York has roughly that same amount. That's 6.4 million right there! Add in the remaining states, and one gets a little over 9 million Independent voters.
But that 9 million figure comes from me being fastidious and doing lots of research into all 12 states. Some of them, Such as Nebraska and Kentucky, had very little reported data on how many Independents were registered, and I had to extrapolate the data by comparing estimated percentages (always between 20% and 30%), and then applying then to the number of registered voters, rounded up, from a previous election cycle, such as 2014. I highly doubt that many other Facebook posters did this. More than likely, they simply added up the three biggest states with closed balloting - New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, and came up with 7.5 million.
So there it is! 7.5 million votes were suppressed, right? And closer to 9 million?
Well, no. And here, I know some people will disagree with me on principle, but I find a closed primary system to be entirely fair. Each state party gets to decide its primary system through an open democratic process, and they are entirely within their right to want to keep Republicans (or any other registered party) from crossing over to vote in their primary to deliberately choose the weakest candidate.
What happens with Independents is that they say that neither political party appeals to them, and so don't involve themselves in the process leading up to the primary, including the process which sets up the rules. Then, when they see an outsider candidate who they like, they jump up and say, "Hey! I want this party that I don't belong to to select this guy!"
Really? You Johnny-Come-Latelys want to participate in the nomination process - something reserved, quite rightly, for those who paid their admission fee in blood and sweat over years or even decades, just because you became a fair-weather-fan of someone you only heard about a few months ago? GET REAL! How dare you outsiders want to crash the wedding party at the last minute when you don't even know the bride?
Okay, that's just me lashing out. But that's the honest mentality of many. For those who have followed politics a long time, it really is that bitter.
But shouldn't everyone get to participate in our democracy? Well, that's just it. A political party isn't a Democracy! It's an organization with a political platform of positions on specific issues that its members feel very strongly about. And quite understandably, they don't want people who might disagree with those issues they champion so vehemently to come in and upend the entire dinner table. Yes, the party proceeds democratically - within its ranks. But if they say to newcomers, "Sorry, members only!" that is entirely within their right.
But isn't a political party best served by appealing to the center? Well, yes, appealing to Independents does have its advantages. It tends to select the candidate who is the more popular with the swing vote. But that's why 38 other states have open or partially open primaries. Of those, Hillary won 22, and Bernie won 17. Of the 20 states with completely open presidential primaries, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, Hillary won 13.
Independent votes or not, she won fair and square.
But just to make things extra certain, let's entertain the notion that the 7.5 million Independents who were denied the ability to crash the party got their say. Let's envision what might happen if they all got to vote. What would be the outcome? In fact, let's make it extra interesting and include all 9 million from ALL the closed primary states. What happens then? A Bernie victory?
Sorry to disappoint you if that's what you were hoping for, but no. Hillary finished with a 3.7 million vote lead. That means that Independents would have to not only overwhelmingly vote for Bernie, but do so in a way that overcomes that 3.7 million lead and then some! Is that realistic?
Unfortunately, no. Voter turnout, even among Independents, is rather low in America, even in this crazy election year. Typically, a high voter turnout year happens in a presidential election and a low voter turnout happens in a midterm election. The typical numbers are 60% for a presidential year, and 40% for a midterm. By way of example, 2008 shattered records with only 63% of the vote. 65% of Americans voted during the election of John F. Kennedy.
Primaries are even worse. During the 2008 presidential primary season, according to FairVote.org, voter participation during the primary season did not even break 31%. This year, poll tracking has indicated a voter participation rate of only 30.16%, despite some states breaking records for primary season totals. Among Independents, voter participation is even smaller.
So that means that out of the 9 million voters available, fewer than 1/3rd will participate. Michigan was likely a rare exception for voter participation because of the water crisis, and this heavily favored Sanders, but no other state has a similar crisis that would mobilize the center like that. That means that not even 3 million of the 9 million available would vote, and even if 100% of them voted for Sanders, Bernie would still not even tie Hillary, much less wipe out her lead!
But let's play along even on top of all that. Let's assume, just for argument's sake, that all 9 million mysteriously broke all records and all voted. What percentage of them would Bernie need? Running the numbers, in order for 9 million voters to wipe out a 3.7 million vote lead, Bernie Sanders would need to rope in 6.35 million out of the 9 million available. That's 70% of everyone! That's a number that Bernie has not been able to achieve this entire primary season. That's not realistic.
And that also assumes none of the 9 million would vote for Trump, which a minority of them almost certainly would.
And that unrealistic figure assumes miracle rule changes on top of miracle turnout, plus miracle percentages voting for Bernie over Hillary. And not Trump.
Not in this universe.
But what about disappearing voter registration? What about the voters turned away in Arizona? What about the voter purges in New York? What about the voters turned away in Michigan? What about Bill Clinton campaigning inside the neutral zone poll areas in Massachusetts?
All these are legitimate concerns. But they affected a plurality of voters in all circumstances. Some who got screwed, gave up or were turned away were Bernie supporters. Others were Hillary supporters. There's no way to quantify how many votes went one way or the other, and even if there were, it would not change the outcome. That's not to say that the voters who were suppressed are not material. Of course they are. The only acceptable percentage of suppressed voters is zero. It's an important goal we must all work hard to achieve.
But until then, let's understand that "fraud" is not the reason Bernie lost.
Democrats voting for Hillary was.