I’ve had a scene from the movie “Man of the Year (2006)” rolling around in my mind for the past several weeks. For those who’ve not seen the movie, it about a comedian by the name of Tom Dobbs, played by Robin Williams, who decides to run for president as a third-party candidate. While he isn’t on the ballot in every state, he does win the states where he is on the ballot and achieves the majority of electoral votes to become the next President of the United States. Many of the voting machines used in the election were made by a company called Delacroy, and after the election one of its employees, Eleanor Green, played by Laura Linney, performs a unit test (or possibly systems test) on the devices. She discovers that when the devices are given a known set of input votes, the tally isn’t consistent with that input; it was miscounting. The reason for the error is related to the fact that the candidates have repeated letters in their names and the double
Dobbs is the real reason why he won these states. (As a professional software developer, this is an idiotic rational unless the software is doing something really screwy with the candidates names. The names should be nothing more than an opaque string but I digress) So she first takes this to her boss, Stewart, played by Jeff Goldblum, and he decides try to supress this information presumably for he sake of the company’s reputation. Anyway, she managed to convince Dobbs of all this, he withdraws from the race, and as a result Time Magazine names him Man of the Year.
What always stuck in my mind is what Stewart said to Eleanor in this exchange. This is mostly quoted on IMDB but not quite correctly, at least in comparison to what’s on the DVD. I presume the quote there was taken from the script and the actors changed it slightly in filming. Here is the quote on the DVD:
Here. Here it is in the sense of light of day. The people are voting, there is an election, the democratic process has worked. The only sour note: The people won’t end up with the person that they voted for to be President of the United States but, we can celebrate the process, the democracy which we hold so dear, will have worked, efficiently. Effectively, everybody’s ultimately gonna be satisfied unless somebody discloses, indiscriminately, willy-nilly, in which case it will appear that democracy is in the s**t-house and tomorrow evening Delacroy will be non-existent. Now was that your motive?
America votes, a leader is chosen, but one thing could disturb the beatific vision.
I just want to be truthful.
Perception of legitimacy is more important than legitimacy itself. That’s the greater truth. Don’t f**k with our democracy. Don’t undermine our way of life. You want to know what is in the heart and soul of every American? They believe their vote counts. Now you wanna tell them that’s not true?
This part always stuck in my mind because Stewart was so flippant about the election that he would rather the election results not correspond to the actual votes cast (not be true) and perpetrate a deception rather than even entertain the notion that the results may not be true. When I first saw this, I couldn’t believe that there could be anyone who would hold such a view about something so critical to the country as an election but then I was just one of the sheep that Stewart didn’t want to be informed of the truth.
Today I’m reminded of this scene because many people are taking the same attitude as Stewart in relation to election audits. Suppress, delay, destroy, lie, and whatever it takes to stop the audit in any form. People watching are left with the questions: why try to stop an audit? What do they have to hide? The problem is, that’s the wrong question.
The correct question is: why are election audits so rare in the first place? Not only do we need the ones proposed, but they need to be common, random, and at all levels of the election. They need to occur in cases where you expect to find nothing awry. If you want to prevent fraud, you present a system that causes fraud to be caught. If you want the truth, you check to make sure the results are actually true.
There has long been a level of fraud in the elections and everyone knows it. Jokes have abound for years about certain areas of the country where the dead still vote. Humor like this only works because it has a basis in truth. Additionally I have examined election results decades ago where counties had 100% turnout and 100% voted for a particular presidential candidate. An appeal to the best explanation wouldn’t leave a person to conclude that it was completely legitimate. Regular audits were needed back then.
Then we get to the 2020 election. There have been so many irregularities that we are past the point where the American people can have trust in the integrity of elections. Nothing short of auditing every single contested election could even begin to restore this faith. I doubt we are going to see this and the result is the fraud will continue.
So the question we must ask ourselves is: are we to actually have elections or the appearance of elections?