Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Politics & Polls #16: The Real Rigged Voting

October 20th, 2016, 11:20am by Sam Wang


Donald Trump has made it clear that if he loses on Nov. 8, it is because the election was “rigged.” He has warned that there might be widespread voter fraud that will favor Democrats. But does this threat have any basis in reality? Or is the real threat new voter identification laws that have the potential to disenfranchise significant portions of the population? Where did these restrictions come from? Julian Zelizer discusses these questions in episode 16 of Politics & Polls with special guest Ari Berman, a senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine. Listen!

P.S. I’m not on this one – scheduling conflict. Julian and I will be together for the next one, in which we talk about the religious right with our colleague Kevin Kruse.

Tags: Princeton

86 Comments so far ↓

  • Charles Howes

    Do they teach anything about word connotation/denotation and subliminal persuasion in college writing any more? I spent years in Marketing Communications and I could see the bias from the very beginning of this election. Trump is absolutely right, the election is rigged! The only stupidity here is in those who think the rest of us can’t see it!

    • Sam Wang

      Charles, you have not provided any support for your assertions. I rather doubt that you can do so, but there are few Trump supporters here. So I will let this comment through in case you have evidence.

      Everyone else…note that I prefer comments to contain data and be well thought-out.

    • Robert Del Medico

      Ah good, an appeal to authority in place of an actual argument. We were overdue for one of those.

  • Rhina

    http://nevo.news/index.php/2016/09/19/latest-presidential-poll-shows-donald-trump-beating-hillary-clinton-in-head-to-head-contest-trump-taking-70-of-the-electoral-votes/
    Found this link, and it is funny how different the polls look here. I guess that we are just being fooled. Sam what do you think?

    • Sam Wang

      It is unusual to see a post like that: completely false, with made-up statements. The nerve is incredible.

    • Alex

      I was linked to that site on Facebook by an innumerate person “asking questions” about voter fraud. It is a Breitbart.com scraper/aggregator.

  • 538 Refugee

    Politics explained? ;) Not that we needed the science on this to know it was true, but it’s nice to have a backup.

    “Your brain gets used to lying as you do it more”

    http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/24/13375950/lying-brain-dishonesty-study-learning-to-lie-amygdala

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      Some brain morphologies are just more permeable to “sticky” falsehoods.
      journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0052970

  • Rick Howard

    Examining the internals of the new ABC poll which finds Clinton up by 12%, TPM noted

    “The previous ABC/Post poll found a sharp 12-point decline in enthusiasm for Trump among his supporters, almost exclusively among those who’d preferred a different GOP nominee. Intended participation now has followed: The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-internals-of-the-abc-poll-could-be-a-big-deal?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Talking-Points-Memo+%28Talking+Points+Memo%3A+by+Joshua+Micah+Marshall%29

    • 538 Refugee

      I saw something at the end of the 3rd debate that reminded me of a fight between my wife’s two cats. The winner went forward to get her prize while the loser hung back licking his wounds. I’ve seen that scenario many times with the cats and it looked EXACTLY the same in many respects. Even leaving the building you could see Trump and supporters were subdued. 3rd debates don’t move the needle? Hillary may not have scored a knockout but Trump received a standing 8 count and hasn’t recovered yet. He’s holding on fighting just to survive. His tone has been more subdued ever since or the news media is biased and just showing us a different Donald. Seriously. His call for down ticket support sounds to me like he is trying to throw the party a bone knowing he has lost the presidency for them.

  • 538 Refugee

    Are we back to February yet? ;)

    http://election.princeton.edu/2016/05/22/february-national-polls-are-the-best-you-get-until-august/

    With this in mind I have been doing a customization of the Pollster graph and keeping tabs that way. Yeah, it might be over smoothed but we are now not much changed in point spread and magnitude.

    goo.gl/L2Jidx

  • 538 Refugee

    It seems Clinton is now making a serious down ticket push.

    “Emboldened by polls predicting an electoral-college landslide in the presidential race, Clinton is shifting her strategy to lift up other Democrats coast to coast. She and her party are rushing to capitalize on a turbulent turn in Trump’s candidacy, which has ruptured the Republican Party, to make down-ballot gains that seemed unlikely just a month ago.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/buoyed-by-rising-polls-clinton-shifts-to-a-new-target-the-house-and-senate/2016/10/22/9c717070-97c3-11e6-bb29-bf2701dbe0a3_story.html

    • Emigre

      Obama also is getting into the act:
      … President Obama called Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) “shameless” for using the president’s photo on a recent mailer and praising him after years of criticizing the Obama administration.
      Issa is facing an unexpectedly tough race this year as the eight-term Republican squares off against political novice former Marine Col. Doug Applegate.
      “Issa’s primary contribution to the United States Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped-up investigations that have led nowhere. And this is now a guy who, because poll numbers are bad, has sent out brochures with my picture on them touting his cooperation on issues with me,” Obama told the crowd, according to a transcript, at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser in the La Jolla home of donor Christine Forester. “Now that is the definition of chutzpah.”

      The Vista Republican has been a frequent critic of Obama and has called him “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” …..

    • Shawn Huckaby

      Issa has long been as annoying as the crappy car alarms he used to inflict on the public. His sudden bout of expedient hypocrisy is certainly the definition of something in Yiddish. I’d say he’s a putz who’s afraid of getting schlonged in the election!

  • 538 Refugee

    Excellent read. Actually gives more about Clinton’s agenda than I knew about. Things that the press has ignored because it wasn’t entertaining enough I guess. sigh….

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/31/the-new-yorker-endorses-hillary-clinton

    • Greg Gross

      Excellent article. Its discussion of the Senate leads me to ask a question about the “Senate races” box at the right: Of the 15 races listed, how many have to be Dem wins to gain control of the Senate? I believe it is 4 of these 15 — but I welcome some more expert person’s input on this issue.

    • Emigre

      @Greg Gross
      This is a brief summary of the six seats that could determine the control of the Senate:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/23/us/politics/the-calculus-in-six-crucial-senate-races.html?ref=politics

    • Greg Gross

      Thanks, Emigre. I hope all the featured Dems win (being a rabid Dem myself).

      As to the “Senate races” chart at the right, I believe I have researched and answered my own question in the past 20 minutes or so: The Dems will have to win 6 of the 15 races listed in the chart at the right. The Dems will have to hold the current Dem seats in NV and CO. Plus, the Dems will have to win 4 more seats of the remaining 13 seats shown on the chart.

      Currently, Dems are ahead in polls in NH, IN, WI and IL. Those 4 seats are currently held by Repubs. Dem wins in those 4 seats will mean Dem Senate control if Clinton wins, because the VP (Kaine) can break a 50-50 tie on a straight party vote.

      Any critiques of the above?

      My source for much of this is 270toWin, which states: “Currently, the U.S Senate is controlled by the Republicans. They have 54 Senate seats, Democrats 44, with 2 independents caucusing as Democrats (effectively giving them 46 seats). In 2016, 34 Senate seats are up for election, 10 held by Democrats, 24 by Republicans. Since Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden will break any ties, Democrats must gain at least 4 seats, for a minimum of 50 total, to take control in early January, 2017.”

  • Olav Grinde

    Professor Wang, how would we recognise a rigged election? What are the telltale signs – especially in states where the polling might indicate a very close race?

    A recount of paper ballots seems straightforward enough, but…

    How might the hacking or tampering of voting machines be proven, or for that matter disproven? Can such a suspicion be decisively resolved?

    Mind you, I am not wondering specifically about the 2016 Presidential Election, but asking this as a general and principled question.

    • Sam Wang

      In the U.S., where polling is mostly high quality, I would look for discrepancies between Election Eve polls and reported results. As far as I can tell, modern elections here have only minor fraud, for example a handful of people voting in the wrong jurisdiction.

    • Slartibartfast

      Thank you Dr. Wang (and Olav for asking the question). I think the best response to everything being done to undermine faith in the elections is to discuss the possible types of polling misses we might see and what they would mean.

      The cake is pretty much baked—anyone who has been listening to Sam knows better than to expect the meta-margin to move too much in either direction before election day. The question is how close will the cake be to the one Sam predicts?

      While we don’t know what would happen, we can speculate on what various scenarios would look like.

      Trump Effect: the sudden surge of silent supporters (or “shy” Trump voters) that will overwhelm Hillary unless the system is “rigged” against them.

      pros: Trump said it.

      cons: no evidence in primaries, no evidence of increased registration in pro-Trump demographics, no plausible causal mechanism.

      magnitude: YYUUGGEE! You’ve never seen a swing this big, it’s gonna be the biggest ever!

      how it would look: I would expect this to result in a correlated miss in all states that was strongest in red states and weakest in blue states.

      Clinton Effect: A female Bradley effect where voters wont admit they are going to vote to Hillary to pollsters.

      pros: there’s research!
      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11109-010-9137-6

      cons: motivated reasoning

      magnitude: the study shows female gubernatorial and Senate candidates overperform their polling by a little over 2%.

      how it would look: this would probably be more pronounced in socially conservative states. A correlated polling miss that was bigger in red states and smaller in blue ones.

      GOTV Effect: A game-day effect from widely disparate ground games that isn’t already baked into the polls.

      pros: unprecedented difference in Republican and Democratic GOTV efforts.

      cons: motivated reasoning.

      magnitude: I would be surprised if this was bigger than two or three percent.

      how it would look: an effect corollated with the size of the Clinton GOTV effort (normalized by the population of the state).

      Clinton “Rigging”: Massive cheating by Hillary.

      pros: um… there’s gotta be something, right? Oh yeah, Donald said so .

      cons: the data says it isn’t necessary.

      magnitude: Since each state’s voting laws and infrastructure is different and each state would have a different amount and possibly type of cheating, the magnitude of this would be somewhat random over a specific group of states.

      how it would look: uncorollated misses in specific battleground or near-battleground (pink) states.

      Trump “Rigging”: exactly what it says on the tin.

      pros: the Republicans do all the cheating they can get away with.

      cons: the Trump campaign probably isn’t competent enough to get away with it.

      magnitude: probably far too big to go unnoticed.

      what it would look like: armed Trump “poll watchers”, violence , and record low turnouts. The end of democracy.

      Anyway, that’s just my $0.02.

    • Matt McIrvin

      For a while now, there’s been a strange paper knocking around claiming that the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries were rigged for McCain and Romney in a huge national conspiracy, and that maybe there was a thumb on the scale for McCain in the 2008 general election as well (though obviously, if so, it wasn’t enough).

      The paper makes a statistical argument, that in both cases the establishment Republican candidate got a disproportionately large amount of support from larger precincts, in a way no mechanism other than cheating could explain (it claims to have corrected for urban/rural differences).

      The thing that bothers me is, I can’t see any cheating mechanism that could really explain it either. I mean, yes, it stands to reason that if you were going to rig the vote-counting, you’d do it in larger precincts where you get more bang for the buck. But they claim this effect persisted across hundreds of different election systems that used completely different methods, so it can’t be some simple hack to a touchscreen voting machine; it’d have to be some kind of nationwide tampering with centralized tabulators, or something like that. And if you can do that, why would you even focus on specific precincts?

      But I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into the original paper in detail and figure out if there’s anything wrong with it. I haven’t seen a detailed debunking, and it’s just out there being mysterious.

    • Deb

      A great example is trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon living in California and DC but registering in Florida at a vacant home once occupied by an ex-wife.

  • A

    Via Drew Linzer’s Twitter, about an hour ago.

    Surely not impossible, but what are the odds? Maybe 1 in 20, which would be on the order of 80 years. “Dewey” was 68 years ago.

    Ariel Edwards-Levy @aedwardslevy
    For Donald Trump to win, there’d need to be a bigger polling miss than “Dewey Defeats Truman”

    • Matt McIrvin

      We’re into the realm of two unlikely things at once now: a freakish last-minute collapse of Hillary Clinton’s support and a substantial polling miss.

    • pechmerle

      The Dewey miss was in an environment with far fewer pollsters in the field. And mostly national popular vote polling, not state by state. So a Dewey-type missing by the polling aggregates is far less likely today than it was in 1948.

    • Shawn Huckaby

      I strongly dislike “maybe”. Data or gut: Pick one.

    • Bill

      Sam Wang and Julian Zelizer discussed Truman/Dewey in an earlier episode. If I remember correctly another factor in the miss was that some of the big pollsters, notably Gallup and the Roper poll, stopped polling weeks before the election and ended up missing the swing to Truman.

  • 538 Refugee

    The link to the Louisiana Senate race is broken in the Power of One Vote. A Democrat is currently running 1st but I see there is likely to be a runoff. Is it assumed a Republican will win the runoff in the less crowded field?

  • Olav Grinde

    Two new polls from Georgia today showing Trump’s lead reduced to 1 % and 2 % respectively. I do wonder if this is further evidence of a likely wave election.

    Historically, apparently only 6 % of voters split their tickets. The question, of course, is how much higher that figure can be in this Year of Trump.

    This diagram shows an astonishing shift in early voting margins in swing states – mostly in favor of Democrats.

    https://twitter.com/sfcpoll/status/789459176418320384

    Surely Trump and his most-rabid supporters will conclude that a 2016 wave is decisive evidence for a rigged election – rather than a massive American rejection of their candidate?

    • Matt McIrvin

      Or, it could just be a concerted effort by Democrats to vote earlier, perhaps in anticipation of trouble on Election Day. I’ve heard anecdotal reports of long lines at early-voting locations in Georgia and NC; many of the people in line are African-American, and keen to evade any vote-suppression schemes that their state governments or Trump supporters might have in store.

      Either way, it’s probably a sign of Democratic enthusiasm to get votes counted.

  • Michael

    Clarification needed for the non-science major:
    Is it Hillary’s or Trump’s chances that would correctly be called “asymptotic?”

  • Matt McIrvin

    I’ve been seeing a lot of Democrats in the past couple of days crowing about a wave election, 400+ EV, flipping the House, etc.

    I’m seeing little or no evidence of this in polls. Maybe a real wave is coming, but it looks more like a Presidential win for Clinton somewhere in the range between 2012 and 2008 to me, with the Senate up in the air and the House probably out of reach, and we might even be seeing signs of incipient tightening.

    I’m thinking there’s just enough time for a spate of “Trump is back!” articles in the waning days before he loses. His loyalists are clinging to the two or three right-leaning polls that frequently show him ahead nationally, and they’ll get very excited when those jump up to what looks like a safe lead, which might contribute to “rigged election” talk on the morning after.

    • Josh

      I agree with much of this. A couple of things to ponder:

      1) It’s fairly clear from polling over the last several weeks that most of the support Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are losing is going to Hillary; Trump has been at around 40% since September, while Hillary has gone from 43-44% to about 46%. Concurrently, [Johnson + Stein] has gone from 11-12% to 9%. Even though Johnson supporters’ second choices break fairly evenly for Trump and Clinton, and even though undecideds typically break 50/50, I wonder if this election is different, and that third party supporters and undecideds will break in a larger proportion for Clinton?

      2) As has been pointed out elsewhere, Barack Obama ended up over-performing his final polling in each of his two elections (by about 1/2-1% in 2008 and by 2-3% in 2012). Is it possible that Hillary, too, will end up doing better in the final tally than the numbers currently indicate?

      3) It’s certainly true that a wave a la 2006 (when Dems won the generic Congressional ballot by something like 15 points) doesn’t seem in the cards this year, but there are still a few weeks for the remaining undecideds and third-party people to go R or D. It wouldn’t surprise me if a combination of polls undervaluing Clinton and a very late rush of support ended up giving her a margin of victory in the 8-10 point range.

    • Bill

      One aspect of gerrymandering is that while creating more winning districts it also reduces the safe margin. This creates a lower threshold for a lot of tipping. I’m hoping Trump supporter despair can help Dems get over that threshold in lots of places.

    • Ravilyn Sanders

      @Bill // Oct 21, 2016 at 11:04 am
      Yes, there were a few posts using the “levee overtopping” analogy. But Dr Wang has calculated the margin of safety built in is around 20% (60-40 splits) in the districts. So we need a larger margin to win. Because house races are polled very rarely he uses a national poll correlation. An 8% generic ballot advantage in national polls is needed to get control of the House. Will that 8% also result in Katrina like levee break up? We don’t know.

    • Richard Vance

      Yes. The congressional margin is discouraging. Clinton has very short coat tails. We really need at least two years if House and Senate control to get a reset going. A Republican House will simply obstruct then we have mid-terms that make it worse. An amendment to end gerrymandering can be coupled with the amendment to end the Electoral College.

  • ravilyn sanders

    Eh tu, Dr Wang?

    Seriously? Three significant digits? 98.6%? Or is it a sort of inside joke about the normal temperature of human body?

    There I was laughing at Nate for giving the third significant digit in the click bait, sorry now cast, prediction.

    • Sam Wang

      Lobbying me usually does not work…but you have given me pause.

      OK, everyone else…more lobbying. I need to hear more on this topic.

    • bks

      Readers would get the wrong idea if you gave both as 100%.

    • Jim

      Actually, this is only 2 sig-figs. 1.4% probability of Trump win. Though 2 digits is probably still overdoing it. At this point, the systematic uncertainty is dominant.
      The 70% quoted or Senate is the more important probability estimate, although I tend to look more at individual races.

    • Froggy

      I want as many digits as necessary, significant or not, so that I continue to see progress toward 100%, even if that means the win probability goes to something like 99.994%. Sure it makes no rational sense but according to brain scientist types humans are not fully rational creatures.

    • Ravilyn Sanders

      @Froggy // Oct 21, 2016 at 9:21 am : I want as many digits as necessary, significant or not…

      37 years ago in a freshman physics lab I calculated g, the acceleration due to gravity, to be something like 9.8038383 m/sec^2 using a simple pendulum. The roasting (and the F grade) I got from Dr Swaminathan, may God rest his soul, I will never forget.

      If we take delight in what is essentially noise, we might as well consult the tea leaves.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Your site serves a pedagogic function for the math-phobic. I vote for sticking to 2 sig figs, but at this point, the leading “9″ is irrelevant.

      Why not publish 1-P(Clinton win), in scientific notation if needed?

      Or stick to P(Clinton) but give sigma to 2 sig figs.

    • Froggy

      @Ravilyn – Thanks for the suggestion in your last sentence. I’m sitting here drinking green tea, listening to “Metal Machine Music,” and loving it.

    • Slartibartfast

      As I recall, in past years Sam has added extra significant digits when the probability gets above 98%. I think this falls under the same principle as not throwing out polls (like USC/Dornsife) in the middle of the campaign. It’s not clickbait, in my opinion, but valuable information about what the model is saying about the race. It isn’t that an accurate objective assessment of the probabilities, but it is a valid relative measure of the state of the campaign.

      If Sam wants to change his policy for next cycle, that’s his prerogative (I would urge him not to), but he should finish out this cycle in the way he finished out previous cycles in my opinion.

    • Eric

      I vote for >99%. It conveys everything necessary without false precision.

    • Five Tool Player

      I like three sig figs — not for any mathematical or rational reason — but for reasons of mundane pragmatism. As a college student, I found that college professors almost never took points off of free response test questions if the answer was given with three sig figs. Go Cubs.

    • Olav Grinde

      Please post also your right-column medians (the Presidential and Senate races) to the closest tent-of-a-percent!

      Would you please also add the states where Trump’s median lead has been reduced to single-digit? According to PEC’s spreadsheet this includes:

      Texas (–3.5 %)
      Alaska (–4 %)
      South Carolina (–4 %)
      Missouri (–6 %)
      Utah (–6 %)
      Indiana (–8 %)

    • Matt McIrvin

      “>99%” is fine when the time comes.

    • Tony Asdourian

      I feel like the whole point of this site is that it isn’t trying to be trendy, just as accurate as possible. If 3 significant figures, in your judgment, conveys meaningful information, I’d keep it. If not, I’d switch over to >98% or >99%.

    • Richard Vance

      As an engineer working with real Mr Murphy stuff we don’t buy probabilities with decimal points. Use integers. And 100% defies the universe.
      Good work is on display here. This is my thrice daily fix.

    • Mut

      Unhelpfully obvious suggestion: quote a number of digits that reflects the uncertainty on the estimate. If you’re in a binomial-like zone where the error gets smaller as you approach 100%, keep adding digits. If it’s saturated then I’d round to the nearest 1% (or “>99%” if above 99.5%).

    • Jeremiah

      I have to second Mut’s comment. The number of significant digits has to represent the information from the calculation. The significant digits in this context is not mis-representing the accuracy of the calculation because it has to show the order of magnitude. If Donald Trump had a 0.1% probability of winning then you would have to write that as 99.9% Clinton probability. It doesn’t matter if the accuracy is only +/- 20 % that would give a range of a Trump win of 0.08% to 0.12% which would still be about 99.9% chance of a Clinton win.

    • Sam Wang

      The error bar in the probability goes down as the Meta-Margin goes up. This is approximately reflected in the number of significant figures – but not perfectly.

      For example, think about the random-drift probability. Imagine that the difference between today’s Meta-Margin and the November 8th outcome is 2% on average. When the Meta-Margin is 0%, if it is uncertain by +/-0.5%, that corresponds to a probability that could be 9 percentage points in either direction from 50%. When the Meta-Margin is 5%, as it is today, the probability will only be off by 0.8 percentage points in either direction. Basically, the probability saturates near 100%.

      However, I have found that putting an uncertainty on a probability sounds weird to a lot of people. Instead, I use the significant figures to convey the precision. For the Bayesian prediction, and appropriate statement would be to use whole numbers up to 99%, and above that to say “>99%.” So that’s what we will do.

  • chris

    Sam:
    Just a quick question about the EV maps. Today the “distorted to emphasize its share of electoral votes” shows Arizona white, but the undistorted map shows Arizona light blue.
    What is the difference in the two maps besides the distortion? A different update schedule, or ??
    Keep up the great work.

  • Rick Howard

    Trump’s National Political Director, Jim Murphy, left the campaign officially today. “I have not resigned but for personal reasons have had to take a step back from the campaign,” he said. Murphy played a key role in setting up field programs in battleground states and is believed to have been a leader for the GOTV effort for Trump.

    • Phoenix Woman

      “For personal reasons” is the new “to spend time with his/her family”, I take it?

  • Rachel Findley

    Just got to the part of the WOOCast when he says “Trump says he went to college in Pennsylvania, and that’s how he knows the vote is rigged there.”
    Can’t resist a nonstatistical aside: decades ago I was a graduate student in Princeton Borough, and I worked as a Democratic Party poll watcher. I noticed two interesting names registered at the Tiger Club on Prospect Street: Seymour Tree and [somebody] Troll. Tiger was famous for a yearly battle between Trees (tall guys) and Trolls (short guys). I flagged them, and they were removed from the rolls. But neither had ever voted. Would that be evidence of voter fraud in Princeton Borough?

    • Slartibartfast

      Unless they actually voted, that’s voter registration fraud—which has no impact on elections whatsoever.

  • deb

    2 things. Since Ds outnumber Rs by 3%, which is a lot, but Rs control the Senate, House, state governorships and state legislatures even in Democratic states, Ds must not be rigging very well.

    The suspense after the results, this narcissist, will try and steal the limelight from the first female winner by using that “suspense” to launch his own party and/or media empire. People with NPD can NOT lose face.

  • mcorn

    I don’t think there is any question that the bigger news story with regard to tilting the outcome of elections was and is the unholy alliance of gerrymandering and voter suppression.

    The notion that dated voter registration rolls necessarily implies voter fraud has little objective support:

    http://www.factcheck.org/2016/10/trumps-bogus-voter-fraud-claims/

  • A

    Read this post if you want your mind refreshed on what a different level Sam has been on compared to..cough…others…when it comes to prediction models in 2015-2016.

    http://election.princeton.edu/2016/01/05/what-december-polls-can-tell-us-about-the-gop-nomination/#more-13187

    • anonymous

      Thanks for pointing out that early post. A good example of clear unbiased thinking leading to a correct prediction.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Bonus: excellent Sesame Street link.

  • Arthur Neelley

    His not accepting the result on Election Night would only be acceptable IF and only IF it were somehow an extremely close election. All indications are that it isn’t going to be, but I suppose anything is possible.

  • Dave Kliman

    Now it’s time to be the ALEC of the rest of us and use all those grads and post docs to draft boilerplate legislation such as “the fair districting act,” which ought to be presented, on a silver plater, to legislatures across the land, and maybe even federally.

    • Mike Harrison

      It needs to be federal. At least so it will have effect here in PA. PA is terribly gerrymandered and the legislature would never vote for it. I’m looking at a huge imbalance for Republicans into the unseeable future unless something like this passes.

    • RonL

      According to reports, this will be one of President Obama’s post-presidential projects… the elimination, as much as is possible, of gerrymandering. But the reports — which indicate a willingness to eliminate all gerrymandering — may not be as accurate as I’d wish. Calling it the National Democratic Redistricting Committee sounds unfortunately partisan. I don’t disagree that a partisan effort on the part of Democrats might level the field. But a nonpartisan effort is more laudable. And admittedly, perhaps has less chance of success… one needs both sides to agree that there is a problem if one takes a nonpartisan approach. I don’t see the current crop of Republican leaders as being willing to admit that there is a problem.

    • RP

      But *why* would GOP leaders admit there’s a problem when gerrymandering helps their position in the House, especially when the 2020 census is around the corner?

      The presidency and senate will remain extremely competitive for Democrats unless the GOP does some serious soul-searching (doubtful) and stops pandering to the racists. So widening the moat around the House is a good bet for them, even if it’s through something antidemocratic like gerrymandering.

      The GOP is stronger at the *state* level, but as soon as they go national, it’s right into the ol’ brick wall. So gerrymandering is an effective tool to “translate” state-level wins (governorships, legislature majorities) into national ones via the House.

    • Rachel Findley

      In addition, some of those brilliant and eager incipient academics could work on cases to take through the legal system in the states and to the US Supreme Court, assuming the Senate goes Democratic and the Supremes come to more closely resemble the electorate.

    • alurin

      A Federal law on redistricting would be unconstitutional; that is entirely the realm of state legislatures. If you want change, you have to do it state-by-state.

    • Sam Wang

      No, this is not true. Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.” An example of federal constraint on redistricting is the Voting Rights Act.

  • anonymous

    I wonder if the danger of this refusal of Donald Trump to accept the election results gracefully is being overplayed. Is a mature democracy like the US really so fragile as to be dependent on a concession speech?

    • Greg Gross

      And now The Donald claims that Hillary had last night’s debate questions in advance. What a sore loser….

      http://www.nbcnews.com/card/trump-claims-clinton-secretly-used-debate-questions-n670091

    • bks

      Yup. It’s over when the electoral college votes.

    • Shawn Huckaby

      Maybe it won’t be a national orgy of overturned cars and pitchfork wielding mobs, but the real danger is further eroding confidence and trust in government among a not inconsequential portion of the populace.

      The reason I believe Ryan, McConnell and the rest of Republican leadership is quietly turning a blind eye at this point is that it serves their short-term advantage to have Hillary take office as a weakened and de-legitimized president. They fundamentally don’t care about the long-term health or viability of the republic if it helps them to ride out the next two years with their base. McCain has already let slip the GOP plans to block all of Hillary’s SCOTUS nominees for the next four years. It’s clear that a party concerned about a continued functioning government would not be acting the way they are.

      In many ways it’s the corollary to corporations putting all of their focus on short-term investor returns, rather than worrying about the long-term prospects of the company. And we’ve all seen how great that turns out!

    • Chuck

      It depends entirely on what he says and how his supporters respond. My concern is that many of them act exactly like members of a classic cult of personality. They’re already angry and convinced that they are the victims of a vast conspiracy. Trump has already encouraged them to intimidate voters in “those neighborhoods.” It wouldn’t take much for them to decide to take revenge of the Americans they believe have wronged them by failing to worship their fearless leader.

      Our democracy is not that fragile, but civil order can become very fragile if a small number of fanatics decide to start using weapons to express their displeasure.

    • Taylor

      Our presidential election is not a single election. It’s actually 51 separate elections (the states and DC). If Trump wants to challenge results, he must do it by each state. Polls suggest that Clinton hits 270 just by securing the dark blue states, which will not be subject to recount. Trump could challenge Ohio if it’s close, but it won’t matter. She will still have already beaten him. He may not officially concede, but the GOP will on his behalf. He can sit in Trump Tower and pout.

    • Ruth Rothschild

      Anonymous,
      A concession is only a formality and not a requirement. It’s basically the civil and honorable thing for the loser to do in transferring power in a peaceful and honorable manner. Whether or not the loser concedes doesn’t alter the outcome of the election. And, the winner will still be inaugurated in January, 2017, with or without a concession from the loser of the election. What is of more concern is if the loser decides to file a lawsuit contesting the outcome and to demand a recount. That could lead to complications and delays. Hopefully, this election wouldn’t get to that level. Certainly, if Hillary loses, I believe that she would concede.

      Of more concern to me is what Sam wrote about voter suppression. And, with the Supreme Court having done away with having voting site monitors from the Dept of Justice present at various voting places, it makes this even dicier, unless there can be a presence of State Dept employees, maybe the National Guard in various locations, and the police as monitors at various sites. But, that isn’t realistic because there probably aren’t enough of those people to go around. My worry also is that many of Trump’s supporters will take up his suggestion to go to voting places and watch to make sure no fraud is happening, but that what will happen, instead, is that these people will intimidate voters who will then step out of line and go home without voting. This sort of thing happened in both 2008 and 2012. It’s a sad commentary on the path this country is going down and the results of polarization.

    • Rob Honeycutt

      In a way, Hillary actually did have the debate questions in advance…

      It’s called “debate prep.”

      You prep for all possible questions.

  • RosiesDad

    Love the podcast, Sam. I binge listened to most of the early ones after I found it (at about Episode 9). Will look forward to hearing you on the next one.

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