Last week, I attempted to debunk allegations of widespread election fraud by the Clinton campaign that have been swirling around on social media. My argument was an appeal to common sense: If Hillary Clinton entered the race with a very large lead in the national polls and an enormous amount of support from Democratic Party activists and elected officials, as she did, and then quickly built up a significant lead in pledged delegates, as she did, then at no time since the start of the race, regardless of how unscrupulous her campaign might be, would there be any rational motive for risking infamy by rigging the vote. You don’t need to cheat when you’re winning.
That didn’t sit well with Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis, whose earlier piece for The Free Press, “Is the 2016 election already being stripped & flipped?,” I had mentioned briefly in the column. They’ve now published a lengthy broadside accusing me, and The Nation, of not being able to handle the truth when it comes to “election theft.” (It’s an odd charge, given that my Nation colleague Ari Berman has done some of the best reporting in the country on vote suppression.)
It’s unfortunate that Wasserman and Fitrakis didn’t engage my argument (or link to my piece so that readers might judge it for themselves). Instead, they waved away the idea that looking at motive is a legitimate way of evaluating the likelihood that a crime has been committed, writing that the argument was “a bit hard to follow.”
Of the 2016 election, they write that millions of Democratic voters have “already been stripped from the voter rolls in critical states like Ohio.” They noted that most votes Americans will cast this year will be tallied on electronic voting machines that have no auditable paper trail. And they claim that primary exit polls offer evidence that Bernie Sanders is “doing far better than the official vote count.”
But how well do these claims support the charge that the primaries are being rigged? Without getting too deep into the weeds, what’s clear is that Fitrakis and Wasserman don’t require much in the way of evidence to allege that an election is being stolen.
An example: In their original piece, they claimed that in Iowa, “Clinton’s ‘victory’ apparently turned on six coin tosses, all of which she allegedly won.” That would have been odd. But, as I wrote to Wasserman via e-mail on April 3, this was an early report that had later been proven erroneous by CNN, NPR and The Atlantic, among others. There’s no complete record of the ties that were decided by a coin flip in Iowa, but two things are clear: Sanders won his share, and since each flip determined only a tiny fraction of a single delegate, they had zero impact on the outcome. But as of this writing, their post remains uncorrected.