Legitimacy

In the Canadian political system the Prime Minister is the leader of the party which can muster a majority in the House of Commons. The members of that House are elected by paper ballots in 338 constituencies and a plurality of votes in each constituency elects. There are lots of procedural things about Writs and Returns of Writs but that is the basic structure. To vote you need to identify yourself “show one piece of government-issued identification with your photo, name and current address; show one piece of identification with your name and a second one with both your name and address; or, show two pieces of identification with your name and have someone you know attest to your identity.” You have to be 18 and you have to be a Canadian citizen.

It is a remarkably simple system and, of course, the Liberals are thinking of screwing it up with “electoral reform” but even then the basics of paper ballot voting and voter ID are not going to change. And Canadian Federal elections are governed by the Canadian Federal Government. The rules are the same across the country.

Our American cousins have a rather different system for running elections.Or, realistically, they have 50 different systems run by 50 different states with an added layer of potential complexity in the form of the Electoral College which actually elects the President but has no other role in government.

In each of those fifty systems the ID requirements are different. You have to be an American citizen, be 18 or over and meet the residency requirements of the state in which you are voting. The ballots in every state are different: some are paper, some are electronic.

To add a little confusion, not only are Americans voting for their President they are also voting for a Representative, perhaps a Senator, State Officials, Judges, ballot measures and even municipal issues. (Here is a sample ballot for an address in San Francisco.)It is little wonder that every election there are polling stations which are overwhelmed, ballots which are spoiled and a certain sense of barely controlled chaos. But it is all wonderfully democratic.

In Canada there are election lawyers but not very many and they mainly deal with issues going to the very stringent election financing rules which we have. There are, occasionally, recounts in particular ridings. In 2011 there were 6 judicial recounts. Non-judicial recounts are triggered automatically in really tight races and it is open to any citizen to file a complaint alleging electoral fraud which does happen once in a while.

In the US there is a large, active and litigious election bar. Flocks of lawyers monitor the activities of the state election officers and are primed to pounce on irregularities. Not for nothing did the term “hanging chad” enter our vocabulary in the wake of the 2000 contest between Bush and Gore.

There is a long and rich history of voting and election fraud in America with the delivery of the 1960 Election to JFK by Richard Daley’s Chicago machine as, perhaps, the most notable case.

Any Presidential candidate needs to be aware of that history and be prepared to act where fraud is apparent. Trump has kept that option open as has Hilly. But, as the expression goes, “if it isn’t close, they can’t cheat”. But what if it is?

The flocks of hungry election lawyers take wing at the merest hint of impropriety and engage the Courts in a determination of which ballots count and which don’t. It is not efficient but it does ensure a level of scrutiny. Yes, the evil George Soros and his flying monkeys may try to tamper with voting machines and, on the night of the election, fake results might make it into the tallies. But they are unlikely to last there very long.

Widespread systemic voting fraud is not impossible; rather it is almost impossible to conceal. American elections are deeply public events held in public places, monitored by people appointed by both parties. Anomalies are likely to be detected and reported. Not every anomaly but enough that a concerted campaign of reanimating the dead for electoral purposes or bussing large numbers of people across state lines to vote a second time will likely show up.

One of the strengths of the American Presidential election system lies in its diversity. Assume that the fix is in in Chicago – the dead vote, voters are able to vote several times – and Hillary wins a tremendous victory. Big enough that she takes the Illinois Electoral college votes just like JFK did 56 years ago. That one state is only 20 of the 270 EC votes she needs to win.

The legitimacy of the winner of the American Presidential election rests only partially on how “true” the vote actually is. Even if a JFK sized fraud could be hung around the neck of one of the candidates, that would not likely be enough to destroy their claim to office if they had won convincingly in other states where no fraud could be proven. This is particularly true if the EC votes from the state where the fraud occurred were surplus to the 270 needed to win in the EC.

Where it gets dicey – and where people like Al Gore and his supporters – can maintain an election is “stolen” and therefore the winning Presidential candidate is illegitimate, is when the overall election is very, very close. In 2000 Gore won the popular vote outright. He lost in the Electoral College by 5 votes and then because the Supreme Court of the United States stayed a recount in Florida. My lefty friends never ceased to say that Bush had stolen the election and was “selected” not elected.

Whatever one may think of Al Gore, and I think very little of the man, the fact was that he had a perfectly good reason to contest the 2000 election. The fact that he lost in the Supreme Court in no way detracts from the position he took in the face of real uncertainty. But once the Supreme Court had made its decision, legally, the matter was closed.

A President’s legitimacy is only partially derived from an electoral victory. That victory has to be inside the bounds of the law. Was did Bush outlawyer Gore? Possibly, but Gore was represented by a brilliant legal team led by David Boies.

In fact, ultimately, Gore chose to stand down his legal team notwithstanding the SCOTUS leaving the door open for further legal action in Florida. Perhaps he did not like his legal chances, or perhaps he realized that the Presidency itself would be undermined if he persisted.

Trump is fully entitled to say that the 2016 election is rigged – there is no doubt that the old school media hates him and is protecting Hillary  by suppressing the vast weight of evidence of her corruption – but that is not the same as saying its eventual winner lacks legitimacy as the next President. Even provable cases of voter fraud on a relatively small scale, while certainly evidence of just how nasty the Democratic machine and its creature are, does not undermine the legitimacy of the next Presidency. Nor would hard evidence that Putin personally hacked John Podesta’s email account sound as de-legitimating a Trump victory.

To lose legitimacy a candidate and a campaign would have to a) win, b) by a tiny amount that c) could be proven conclusively to have come about by fraud or other illegal means. And that fraud would have to be really, really, really clear: a confection of exit polls deviating from actual results is not, in my view, going to be enough.

However, all that said, if I was running the Trump campaign I would encourage all my voters to wear red on Election Day. If there are as many as Trump says there are, and there is every chance that he’s right, an ocean of red will be hard to ignore and harder to disenfranchise through fraud.

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