Why are Americans so quick to believe in election fraud?


National Post, 15 November 2018

America takes great pride in its democracy, but simultaneously is quite ready to consider that it's open to manipulation, even corruption

MIAMI, FLA. — It’s not only tempers that are hot in the aftermath of the close Florida elections for governor and United States senator.

In Palm Beach County, the ballot-counting machines overheated during the recount of some 175,000 early votes, giving incorrect totals. The machines are only 10 years old, so they could not be suffering from post-election traumatic disorder from the 2000 Florida election fiasco.

The jokes come easy now that Florida is engaged in highly disputed recounts after a close election. Local officials here do not find it funny that the country is ridiculing them again. But jokes can be endured. More worrisome is a culture that so easily finds it credible that elections are fraudulently conducted.

America takes great pride in its democracy, but simultaneously is quite ready to consider that its democracy is open to manipulation, even corruption.

The recounts are mandated by law due to the close results. The sitting governor, Rick Scott, a Republican, challenged the sitting senator, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, while his vacated governorship was an open seat. In both elections, the Republican candidates apparently won the election by less than 0.5 per cent, the threshold for mandatory recount.

By law then, all of Florida’s 67 counties had to recount the more than eight million ballots cast statewide, using the voting machines that were used the first time around. The deadline was Thursday afternoon, and official results are pending. But unofficial results show the senate race so close, a hand-count could be mandated. No hanging chads this time around, but it could be laborious.

An astonishingly close election — 15,000 votes out of eight million cast — is unusual, but in a certain sense unremarkable. What is striking to a visitor here is how quickly accusations of fraud and unfairness are made.

President Donald Trump made his views known in his customary peremptory and inflammatory fashion, accusing the Democrats who were behind in the vote counts of looking to delay the final resolution in order that the result might be fraudulently manipulated. That there is no evidence of this does not prevent the accusation from being made.

Gov. Scott has called for his opponents to be criminally investigated.

Sen. Nelson himself, in concert with the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, announced in Washington that if all the ballots were counted, he would certainly prevail. The implication — not very subtle — was that if the recount did not result in his victory, some kind of skulduggery was at work.

So both the president and the most senior Democrat were willing, as a first resort, to make accusations of bad faith and electoral fraud.

The American system encourages this to a certain degree, as the officials who oversee elections often have a stake in the elections themselves. Gov. Scott, for example, sits on the board that must certify his own election results. He recused himself, but the other members are still appointed by him.

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