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Is A Recount Justified In This Election?

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Is A Recount Justified In This Election?

is a recount justified?

I oppose the recount.

There are, to my mind, only two reasons to re-examine ballots in a presidential campaign, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein has raised money to do. The first is in the event of error or fraud, but there is no evidence thereof in the 2016 election, as Stein herself has admitted.

The second is in the event the margin of victory is especially slim. And yes, in the three states where Stein is pushing for a recount — Wisconsin,Michigan and Pennsylvania — the margins are indeed thin, particularly in Michigan, which Hillary Clinton lost by just 11,612 votes.

But in a case like that, the recount must begin immediately — and preferably automatically — to be seen as credible. A recount three weeks after the fact cannot avoid the appearance of dirty tricks. Indeed, if the results in any of the states in question were overturned at this late date, Donald Trump’s supporters would suspect malfeasance — and be justified in doing so.

Don’t misunderstand: I remain unalterably convinced that the new president is an awful person and that America made a generations-defining mistake in choosing him. But that does not give us license to casually undermine the integrity of the election.

Besides, Trump is doing a fine job of that without Stein’s help.

You’d think, what with recruiting the political equivalents of Darth Vader and Victor Von Doom for his cabinet and presumably ordering a new Oval Office rug with a giant golden “T” in the center, he’d be too busy for such things, but you’d be wrong. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

It was hardly the first time he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Not only is there zero evidence this supposedly massive fraud happened, but simple logic says that it could not. To be here illegally is to live off the grid, to be paid in cash, avoid interactions with police, steer clear of City Hall. Why would one such person — let alone millions — jeopardize the security of anonymity to cast a fraudulent vote?

It’s an idiotic idea. News organizations dutifully dubbed it “baseless,” too polite to say that his claim contained enough steer manure to fertilize Central Park.

And at this point, anyone who ever believed in an ideal called America should be unnerved.

A democracy is, in many ways, a fragile thing. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, it depends for its very existence upon the “consent of the governed” — meaning not our support of every action a government takes, but rather, our willingness to believe in its integrity. It is from this that democratic government derives its power. Democracy, then, is an act of mutual agreement.

In a nation of 320 million people who share no one ancestry, culture or faith, it is also connective tissue. The idea that my vote matters no more — or less — than yours is the tie that binds an Inuit in Bethel, Alaska to a Haitian refugee in Miami to an Irish Catholic in Boston to a Mexican-American in San Diego to a Muslim in Kansas City.

It is the thing that makes us Americans.

And it’s the thing Trump burned down in his scorched earth appeal to bigotry and resentment. Now, here comes Stein in a desperate bid to deny the electorate its appalling choice. Avatars of a demoralized left and a hateful right, they are alike in at least one respect: their apparent willingness to damage what they purport to love.

So we find ourselves at a no-win crossroads. Trump’s victory is a terrible thing.

Stealing it would be even worse.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

IMAGE: Voters cast their ballots during the U.S. presidential election at Public School P.S. 56 in the Manhattan borough of New York, USA November 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. plc97477 December 1, 2016

    The states where the count was close should have stepped in at once and started a recount. The fact that they did not is a much larger attack to our democracy than Stein insisting that they do so.

    1. Otto T. Goat December 1, 2016

      No states were close enough to trigger automatic recounts.

      1. Daniel Jones December 1, 2016

        Except for the ones that were.

  2. secondclassguy December 1, 2016

    why does the trump side get to do anything it wants without any price to pay (republicans in general) but if democrats (in this case stein) just question something they need to fear the other side?

    1. I Am Helpy December 1, 2016

      Stein is not a Democrat, and actively helped Trump win.

      1. secondclassguy December 1, 2016

        yes and i despise her for that same i did Nader, but i was just making a point

        1. I Am Helpy December 1, 2016

          I was just saying you lumped Stein in with the Democrats – probably just bad phrasing on your part. She’s not even a liberal.

          1. secondclassguy December 1, 2016

            well i said “in this case stein” but if the new results showed Hillary won the article suggested the fear of what the other side would do is a reason not to do it. I see no such fear from the Trump crowd or republicans

          2. I Am Helpy December 1, 2016

            Basically I think we can both agree she is garbage and we should stop pretending the Greens are allies.

          3. secondclassguy December 1, 2016

            i do agree

  3. Christy Bishop Cricow December 2, 2016

    I have a very hard time deciding that there is no evidence of wrongdoing considering the pretty obvious disparity between polling and results; we use that as evidence in third world countries: why not here?? The immediate reaction of the press to this weird election–where two million more people voted for the ‘loser’, a disparity unknown in modern political times–was simply “my gosh, the polls were so wrong! Let’s find a reason Hillary did it to herself”! Never mind that we have concrete evidence of Russian meddling and hacking, as well as direct contact with the Trump campaign. So the writer thinks that, for some reason, they set aside their tireless efforts to affect American elections, just when it actually mattered?? Sorry. Not convinced. I completely support the recount, and hope it can reveal the truth about this sorry, disgusting episode.

  4. Karen_in_KC December 2, 2016

    I have no doubt there were NO millions of ‘illegals’ voting for Hillary. My belief is that the trump surrogates, aided by russia and the fbi found a way to ‘disappear’ ballots, destroy valid ballots, or add millions of trump ballots to ‘rig the system’. Or who knows what other devious ways trump surrogates found to, as Trump himself insisted, ‘rig the system’? After all, trump has been really successful at projecting onto the Democrats exactly what he and his cronies are actively doing and getting the low/no information voters to believe him! There is no way, after all the monies that bribed some, the death threats that shut others up, and the rest who actually believe in this snake oil salesman, will EVs change their votes to Hillary.

    1. Karen_in_KC December 2, 2016

      And no matter how ‘monitored’ voting systems are, cheaters will always find a way to cheat… and right under the noses of ‘monitors’ who think the system they monitor is honest. They will ALWAYS find a way. It doesn’t have to be hacking a computer system either. All it takes is counting on honest people ‘thinking’ everyone is honest on whatever team. Or… money or threats are really effective in swaying a persons’ decisions no matter their values.

  5. Chris Moore December 2, 2016

    Mr. Pitts is correct about one thing; several states should have done a recount without the Green’s demanding a recount and paying to have one done. But recounts are surely justified by these state’s final vote tabulations.

    Trump’s margin of victory was less than 1.0% in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania; within the margin of error for optical scanning vote tabulating machines. You might think such close vote counts, within the known error limits of the machinery, would have triggered automatic recounts by the states. Not so.

    Total Michigan ballots: 4.7 million voters
    Trump victory margin: 10,704 votes
    Percentage of ballots cast: 0.22%

    Total Wisconsin ballots cast: 2,939,490 voters
    Trump victory margin: 22,525 votes
    Percentage of ballots cast: 0.76%

    In North Carolina, the Democratic challenger narrowly beat the incumbent Republican governor, yet, Trump out-polled Clinton. Exit polls in several states showed Clinton leading Trump, but the vote tallies did not. Not to mention that Mrs. Clinton won the nation’s popular election tally by over 2.5 million votes.

    Total number of Americans eligible to vote: 218,959,000
    Total number of votes cast in 2016: 135,549,305
    Clinton’s popular vote total: 65,152,310 = 29.75% of eligible voters.
    Trump’s popular vote total: 62,626,216 = 28.6% of eligible voters. Not exactly a populist “mandate” any way you slice it.

    Ms. Stein drew more votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania than Trump’s margins of victory. Not to say they would have, but if those swing state votes for Ms. Stein had gone to Mrs. Clinton; she would have won the election.

    Many of us still wonder what the actual vote count was in Florida in 2000, but we’ll never know due to the intervention by SCOTUS. Let the recounts be completed in this election and we will all know for sure. It is more important to have the true vote count than to meet the Electoral college’s arbitrary deadline.

  6. dpaano December 2, 2016

    Unfortunately, I don’t agree with Pitts. If Jill Stein wants a recount and has the money to do it, then she has the right to ask for it. I can bet you that if Trump had lost, he would have asked EVERY state that voted for Hillary be recounted. He would not have taken a loss lying down and rolling over and neither should Stein or Hillary Clinton. Again, if she has the money, and she apparently does, to request the recount in these 3 states, then no one can take that right away! And, if it’s proven that Trump did NOT actually win the votes in these states and that Hillary DID, then our laws state that the Electoral College vote for the individual that got the most electoral college points…..be that Trump OR Clinton! If Trump doesn’t like this…..tough patooties!

  7. Whiplashed December 2, 2016

    Please tell me how to do a recount before the first count is finished.


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