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Is A Recount Justified In This Election?

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

Trump’s Fake Popular Vote Claims Came From Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

President-elect Donald Trump’s false claim that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” can be traced to conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones. But multiple media reports on Trump’s falsehood failed to report the connection, which is only the latest in a growing list of conspiracy theories espoused by both Jones and the president-elect.

Trump made his claim in response to ongoing vote counting showing former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton amassing a popular vote lead of over 2 million votes.

Trump’s lie echoes a story from Infowars, the conspiracy-laden website run by Jones. Jones has promoted numerous outlandish conspiracies, including the allegation that the American government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, and that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a “false flag” event involving actors and green screens.

An Infowars story headlined “Report: Three Million Votes In Presidential Election Cast By Illegal Aliens,” which cites a tweet from “Greg Phillips of the VoteFraud.org organization,” is the basis of Trump’s fraudulent allegation.

Phillips, without providing any evidence for his claim, wrote on Twitter, “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.”

Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson then published an article on Phillips’ tweet that baselessly claimed, “Virtually all of the votes cast by 3 million illegal immigrants are likely to have been for Hillary Clinton, meaning Trump might have won the popular vote when this number is taken into account.” As The Washington Post explained, Infowars was vital in bringing the conspiracy theory to a wider audience — the Jones-led website’s story on Phillips’ tweet was linked near the top of the Drudge Report on November 14.

In a YouTube video entitled “Proof Donald Trump Won The Popular Vote” released following the Infowars report, Jones himself claimed “it is uncontrovertible (sic) fact that three million illegals voted” in the election and “tens of millions of people were on the voter rolls who were dead and at least four million of them voted as well,” and concluded, “Donald J. Trump didn’t just win the Electoral College in a landslide, he also clearly won the popular vote.”

In covering Trump’s allegation (and often uncritically echoing it), multiple media outlets failed to make the connection between Trump and Jones and the other conspiracy theorists pushing this baseless story.

The New York Times acknowledged that Trump’s claim was “baseless” but did not make the connection between the president-elect and conspiracy sites or Jones.

The L.A. Times pointed out there is “no evidence” to back up Trump’s claim, but did not point out the false story’s origins.

NBC News omitted references to Infowars and Alex Jones in their report on Trump’s remarks.

Trump adopting a conspiracy from Jones and Infowars is not out of the ordinary. The relationship between the politician and the conspiracy theorist has flourished for months.

Trump appeared on Jones’ radio/internet show in December of 2015 and praised him for his “amazing” reputation. Trump’s informal adviser, Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, has been a regular contributor to Jones’ radio program for months and the two have made joint appearances at pro-Trump events.

Throughout the campaign, Trump echoed Jones’ conspiratorial rhetoric as Jones said he was in contact directly with Trump, giving him advice.

In an October speech attacking “global financial powers” while using anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles, Trump was parroting an argument that Jones has used for years.

After Jones said Trump should begin complaining the election was “rigged,” Trump began making similar complaints on the campaign trail.

When Trump alleged that President Obama was “the founder of ISIS,” he was echoing Jones, whose website once wrote that “the Obama administration has been backing ISIS since the beginning.”

After Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Jones saw so much of his rhetoric included that he bragged on his radio show that Trump was “totally synced” with him and his conspiratorial world view. Following Trump’s victory, Jones claimed that Trump called him to “thank” Jones’ audience and promised to appear on his show in the near future.

This latest outburst shows that the two men remain in sync, and it’s time for the media to let the public know who is pulling the next president’s strings.

Voter Suppression Watch: Tracking Swing State Reports Of Intimidation At The Polls

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Update, 6:38pm ET:

The Trump campaign’s effort to lay a legal foundation claiming voting was rigged in the biggest cities in the swing states of Nevada and Pennsylvania is being met with scorn by election law experts.

In Philadelphia, the head of the state’s GOP was claiming that Republican poll watchers were being kept out of polling sites. Election law expert Rick Hasen, blogging for Slate.com, cautioned people about believing that report. He later blogged that “the shady James O’Keefe of Project Veritas just released a videoshowing him following a ‘pastor’s bus’ in Philadelphia supposedly taking people to the polls. It is legal to give people free transportation to vote.”

In Nevada, the Trump campaign sued the county where Las Vegas is located because an early voting center in a supermarket stayed open late Monday to accomodate all the voters in line, many of whom were Latino. That happens to be the law in that state, Hasen noted, speculating that Trump’s lawyers filed a flimsy claim to prevent Democrats from declaring victory on Tuesday night. But that’s not all—a Nevada judge ridiculed Trump’s lawyers for seeking the names of poll workers, saying she would not subject them to his trolls. (Watch here.)

“If nothing else, this [Nevada] lawsuit will give Trump fodder to claim he wasn’t a real loser because the election was ‘rigged,'” Hasen concluded. “Rigged by many Hispanic voters, incensed with Trump’s hateful rhetoric, coming in droves to a supermarket to exercise their constitutional right to vote like other citizens. Something that should be celebrated is being attacked by Trump, which seems a fitting ending to this campaign.”

Update, 4:17pm ET:

The NAACP reports that, early this morning, “the North Carolina State Board of Elections instructed the Durham County Board of Elections to use paper poll books instead of electronic poll books. This abrupt change led to some voters being turned away from certain precincts this morning and in some precincts throughout the day.”

According to the civil rights organization, the problem has since been rectified. “Our understanding is that all precincts now have all the supplies needed to function with paper poll books and we are calling on all Durham voters to persevere in voting,” the NAACP said in a press statement. In light of this issue, the organization is calling on voters to “persevere,” including by returning to cast ballots.

The Durham Board of Elections petitioned the State Board to keep Durham’s polls open an extra 90 minutes in light of the fact that voters faced difficulties earlier. According to the NAACP, without North Carolina’s voter suppression law, HB 589, “County Board would have been able to extend the hours to address this situation without approval of the State Board.” The State Board has not yet responded to press queries about its planned course of action.

Update, 3:30pm ET:

Max Rosenthal and Russ Choma report for Mother Jones that a man in Lansing, Michigan, attempted to prevent two women wearing hijabs from casting a ballot. Voter Ron Fox, who says he witnessed the incident, described what happened to Mother Jones:

I observed a man just outside the door to the polling place. He pulled two women wearing hijabs out of line ahead of me. When I came level to him, he was examining their voter registration cards and appeared to be attempting to direct them to another polling place. He seemed polite but I did not like that he’d singled out those two women… When I finished voting, there were two polling officials that were asking him to leave. He was refusing. He then entered the polling place, presumably to attempt to obtain permission to remain.

Update, 2:15pm ET:

Voter turnout is high (with long lines in many swing states), election protection attorneys reported, citing a handful of disturbing incidents where self-identified Republicans tried to intimidate people but did not prevent them from voting.

“That’s our sense,” said Edward Hailes, managing director and attorney at the Advancement Project, a voting rights law group and part of a national election protection coalition. “In part they [obstructionists] are being blocked from preventing people from voting, because there’s a strong cadre of people on the ground that are providing assistance, providing advice, and overcoming problems by talking directly with election officials.”

“That does not stop the long lines in Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and Florida,” he said. “Those are places where we are working, where we are monitoring it, just trying to make sure there are no systemic problems that stop people from trying to cast their ballots before they leave.”

However, Hailes gave several examples of confirmed incidents where perceived Democratic voters and election protection officials were targeted by hecklers outside polling places.

“What has really caught our attention are attempts at intimidating voters and even the advocates that are there properly to assist and advise voters as they go into their polling place,” he said. “In Missouri, we got complaints of aggressive police presence. We have been told about hecklers in places like Florida and North Carolina. We’re following up to get accurate information.”

“We have, for example, been following up reports received out of Georgia, Macon-Bibb County in particular, where at one polling place we were told that there were trained election protection people in place… and they were challenged and intimidated by aggressive ‘poll watchers’ who later identified themselves as associated with the Republican Party,” Hailes said. “We were told that they were bullying them, they were challenging their right to be there, and the bottom line is after saying this is a non-partisan, non-profit representative of a coalition that has traditionally been in place, they asked the polling place manager to come outside and confirm that these non-partisan people were in the right place. And the polling place manager in fact did that.”

Hailes also pointed to Palm Beach in south Florida.

“In Florida, we’re hearing about the long lines. We are hearing about the hecklers at polling places,” he said. “We’re trying to get more details on a report out of Palm Beach, where there was aggressive poll watcher activity trying to discourage people who they believed would vote for the Democratic nominee and it was a fight at one polling place. We were told that fight took place outside of the zone of protection. To me that’s very serious, that any person supporting one candidate would actually engage in a physical fight.”

Jeralyn Cave, a spokeswoman for the Advancement Project, also cited problems in Virginia, where people who vote infrequently were given a provisonal ballot that would have to be verified, instead of a regular ballot. The voters knew their rights, she said, and worked with election protection lawyers to obtain regular ballots.

Update, 11:30am ET:

Scattered reports of voter intimidation in Florida are emerging.

According to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group of individuals has assembled outside of the Hollywood Branch Library in Broward County, Florida, and has aggressively approached individuals, causing at least one woman to leave before casting a ballot. The organization does not know whether the group is still present at the polling place.

Meanwhile, an unauthorized individual was reportedly removed from the St. Paul AME Church, located in a majority-black area of Jacksonville.

Update, 10:45am ET:

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which operates the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, said on a press call this morning that the organization has received a “substantial number” of calls from “minority voters” voicing complaints that they are facing barriers to casting ballots.

She reported that 43 percent of those calls regarded issues with polling sites not being fully functional, while 28 percent have concerned voter registration issues. The organization has received a “number of calls this morning about malfunctioning equipment,” she added.

“In Florida, we continue to receive complaints of voter intimidation,” she said. “In North Carolina, we have received reports of electronic machines down.”

Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, said on the call that the organization has received complaints in Miami-Dade County, Florida, that there is “a lack of language access for Spanish-speaking voters.”

Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel for the Washington DC office of the Brennan Center, said the organization has received reports that voting machines in Durham, North Carolina, are down “altogether.”

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, reports, “We did hear that in Florida, people are riding around in pickup trucks with confederate flags flying,” but there is no violence at this point.

Clarke noted that law enforcement presence at polling stations “has been historically used as a tactic to chill minority participation,” and the organization plans to keep a close eye on police throughout the day. The Advancement Project received reports of police at an elementary school in St. Louis.

Update, 9:30am ET:

On Monday afternoon, Urban Outfitters tweeted an election reference guide filled with wrong information, including the false claim that a “voter’s registration card” is required for people across the United States to cast ballots. Richard Hayne, the CEO of the retail giant, has donated to Rick Santorum and other Republican candidates.

As of this morning, Urban Outfitters has reportedly corrected the misinformation.

Update, 8am ET:

Addressing a rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania in early October, Donald Trump used racially coded language to call on his supporters to organize vigilante “monitoring” groups apparently targeting black neighborhoods on election day.

“You’ve got to go out,” he said. “And you’ve got to get your friends. And you’ve got to get everyone you know. And you got to watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania. Certain areas. I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.”

His repeated, unverified claims of large-scale “rigged” voting were not lost on racial justice advocates. White supremacist terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan have historically martialed the tactic of physical intimidation, as well as real violence, to suppress black voters.

As recently as Monday, Trump supporter and conspiracy theorist Roger Stone called for vigilante groups to conduct “exit polls” in counties across Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. “As we gathered red-blooded Americans across the country to protect the voting process in their communities, the Clintons went to the court to try and stop us,” he said in a statement. Meanwhile, white nationalist organizations, including the KKK, claim they are planning to mobilize poll watchers across the country.

The Oath Keepers, comprised of former police and military service members who often bear arms at their public events, declared that “our significant capabilities in conducting covert operations, intelligence gathering, and investigation can and should be leveraged to counter actions of any political party or criminal gang that attempts to disenfranchise the citizens of our nation.”

Meanwhile, local lawmakers’ directives to station police at polling places in Springfield, Missouri, have also sparked concerns of suppression. “Placing police at poll sites can be inherently intimidating to voters, particularly in communities of color where such presence has historical ties to efforts to impede voter access to the polls,” Denise Lieberman, senior attorney at Advancement Project, wrote in a letter to the Greene County Clerk’s Office. “In some communities, having patrols at poll sites is far more likely to disrupt the voting process than facilitate it, and carries a likelihood of intimidating or impeding voters’ access.”

This is the first presidential election since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, in a country where widespread voter disenfranchisement already exists, including denying formerly incarcerated people as well as inhabitants of the five modern-day U.S. colonies the right to vote. On Monday, the North Carolina GOP released a press statement openly boasting that state lawmakers’ efforts to restrict voting have reduced the number of African Americans casting early ballots.

AlterNet will be tracking reports of voter suppression throughout the day. See the Know Your Rights resource produced by the ACLU if you experience any intimidation.

IMAGE: Voters register to vote during the U.S. presidential election at a polling station in the Bronx Borough of New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Martinez

Nevada Judge Rejects Trump Campaign Request Over Early Voting

(Reuters) – A Nevada judge on Tuesday rejected Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s request for records from a Las Vegas polling place that the campaign said had allowed people to vote after a deadline last week.

Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are in a close contest for Nevada’s six electoral votes in Tuesday’s election after a long and contentious campaign. Nevada is one of several states that permits early voting and Las Vegas is viewed as a base of support for Clinton.

Nevada state law says voters who are in line at 8 p.m., when the polls close, must be allowed to cast their ballots. Trump’s lawsuit, filed in a Nevada state court on Monday, said election officials violated state law because they allowed people to join the line after 8 p.m. at a polling location at a Latino market during last week’s early voting period.

Trump a New York businessman and reality TV personality who has never previously run for political office, said last month that he might not accept the outcome of the national election if he thinks it is unfair.

“We have to keep the system honest,” Trump said on Fox News on Tuesday before Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Gloria Sturman rejected his request.

The suit had asked the court to order officials to preserve various records from the Cardenas Market and to segregate ballots from the voting machines at issue.

At a court hearing in Las Vegas on Tuesday, a county attorney argued that election officials already preserve records. Sturman agreed, saying she did not want to issue an order that could help reveal which candidate were chosen by particular voters.

The Trump campaign also had asked for information about poll workers on duty at the market and Sturman said she was concerned they might face threats for helping people vote.

“Have you watched Twitter? Do you watch any cable news shows? People can get information and harass them,” the judge said.

Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said the campaign was pleased by the ruling and described Trump’s suit as “a desperate response to the record turnout we’re seeing in Nevada and across the country.”

(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Mica Rosenberg and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Grant McCool and Bill Trott)

IMAGE: Poll workers distribute voting materials during the 2016 presidential election in San Diego, California, U.S November 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker