Re: Election Fraud???

Anton Sherwood (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 22:23:01 -0700

Abraham Moses Genen writes
: On the rare occasions when an election becomes the subject of
: media exploitation there will be those who extrapolate the few
: to the majority. There is an obvious falicy in such imaginings.

On the rare occasions when the establishment can't sweep corruption
under the rug, some of those not indicted can be counted on to dismiss it
on the grounds that "there are a few bad apples in every bushel."
Then, when the press conference is over, they go back to behaving
as if *their* bushel is the exception.

Such protestations would be more convincing if the establishment
were more proactive (or more visibly proactive) in seeking out
and preventing corruption, rather than denying its existence and
defending the suspects until the evidence gathered *by outsiders*
becomes overwhelming.

A few years ago Tamara Clark was a Libertarian candidate for the
Nevada Senate. She came close (there was no serious Republican
candidate), but lost - and found evidence of ballot-stuffing.
The state refused to investigate. Why? Why not have occasional
showcase investigations even where there's *no* reason to suspect
fraud, to prove that the system is clean? If it's a good idea for
the IRS to audit random taxpayers, why not audit random elections?

The sad fact is that most elections receive little scrutiny,
because most of them can be predicted in advance. So we really
have no statistical baseline on which to judge how often they are

San Francisco's recent stadium election is being scrutinized only
because its results were so surprising: polls showed the proposition
losing, and it won largely thanks to unusually high turnout in,
of all places, a neighborhood believed to be strongly opposed.
If this was fraud, were it done more carefully - spreading the
forged votes around the city - it might never be suspected.
And so it would never be scrutinized. And so our assumptions
about the honesty of most elections would continue to be based
on absence of evidence. Thanks to the secret ballot we really
have no idea how many elections are clean, and how many are
more expertly stolen.

(Did the mayor, having spent the last several years out of town
as Speaker of the Assembly, overestimate the party machine's ability
to get away with it?)

: No, the system is not totally corrupt. There are some corrupt people
: in almost every organization. What needs to be done is to increase
: our emphasis on ethics.

The logical answer to the "few bad apples" is to design our systems
with that assumption in mind. A political system - a monopolistic
system - is a poor solution, because it makes everybody vulnerable
to bad apples.

Increase our emphasis on ethics? Let's start by admitting
that plunder is wrong, and that majority vote (even if genuine)
does not make it right.

: Let's stop spitting on every little thing. It's not really that
: productive.

Have you got something to hide, citizen?

The state's raison d'etre is its ability to coerce, to apply the
majority's mandate against the will of the minority, in ways that
would be forbidden for any other entity. For that reason, its
actions deserve a higher level of scrutiny than private actions.
That's why press freedom is written into the Constitution.
That's why we have two legislative houses (formerly elected in
very different ways), executive veto, and juries (formerly with
the recognized authority to judge law as well as fact).

We still have, I believe, more effective safeguards on the
procedural honesty of criminal trials than on elections.
(Never mind that juries are sorted to exclude people who
might think for themselves about justice.) Should we discard
those? After all, in an election there may be millions of
interested parties; in a criminal trial there are only a few.

If the state really is mostly clean, as you say, it will endure
the "spitting". If the results of an election really do reflect
the intent of the people (assuming that there is such a thing as
collective intent), scrutiny will reveal it to be true. The heckling
and the procedural hurdles are not needless impediments: they are
the acid test by which democracy is distinguished from fraud.

Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*