The Arizona Audit

There is more news about the seemingly endless Maricopa County pseudo-audit. Maybe I’m naive, but I’m inclined to ignore whatever “results” come from this inherently inappropriate process. If the so-called “results” are favorable to Trump, it’s meaningless. It’s equally meaningless if the results are unfavorable to Trump, except for the fact that because the process was biased in Trump’s favor, an outcome contrary to the structural bias of the process could be confirmation of what the process was designed to refute.

The larger point is that we need a process that ex ante both parties accept as valid regardless of what results the process will produce. The process needs to be timely as well as transparent and accurate: no “audit” of a presidential election is useful six months after inauguration of the winner. As far as I can tell, the Arizona pseudo-audit serves no purpose except to further erode the capacity to conduct actual ballot-counting in future elections.

That said, I worry that the left is giving insufficient attention to the need to compromise on voting procedures that the right will consider trustworthy. If the right refuses to accept the results of elections as valid, it doesn’t really matter that they should: democracy is unsustainable unless the losers believe the winners actually won. So, without catering to crazy conspiracy theories, the left should be asking the right: what will it take for you to accept the outcome as legit? Obviously, if the answer is “elections are valid only if our candidate wins,” that’s a nonstarter. But if the answer is “we need voter ID, and various forms of procedural protections,” maybe that should be negotiable: even if as a first-order matter these procedures are unnecessary or undesirable, they might be an acceptable price for bipartisan buy-in to an electoral system that sustainably permits the will of the electorate to prevail.

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