Over the last week, I have visited five counties in two states as a part of the team of attorneys representing Donald Trump in the Wisconsin and Michigan recounts. Based on my observations, there was no widespread fraud in the 2016 elections.
Almost every day, I would receive a message from one of my friends who would forward an article that they had seen on the internet. The article would make some sort of allegation of widespread fraud or abuse that demonstrated that some party was caught cheating and that the results would have a major impact on the elections. On a couple of occasions, the accusations made occurred in the county where I had just been observing all day long. I was able to tell those individuals categorically that no such fraud or abuse was happening.
These sensational news stories that have been circulating the internet during the recount demonstrate that the United States is going back to the days of Yellow Journalism. The headlines of these articles were very sensationalized and the articles had limited to no evidence. Rarely would these articles include an interview with a government official to ensure the accuracy of accusations made in the headlines.
These sensational internet stories were not limited to just one side. I saw these stories from democrats, republicans, and green party activists alike. Everyone was guilty of trying to create a viral news link where facts and evidence were not deemed necessary.
What I Saw
As an observer in five counties in two different states, I had the privilege of representing Donald Trump before both Republican and Democrat county election boards. Based on what I saw, everyone wanted one thing: a fair election for all parties. I watched as individuals would carefully sort and hand count the ballots. It did not matter their race, ethnicity, or political ideology, they wanted to prove to the world that there was no fraud in the elections in their county.
As everyone knows who has followed the recount, there have been some minor changes in the final numbers as a result of the recounts. These changes have NOTHING to do with the machines counting the ballots. The changes in the final count have to do with human error. Most of the time the error occurred by the voter who failed to follow directions and properly fill out their ballot. An example of this would be a voter who did not fill in the oval but instead underlined the name of every candidate that they wanted to vote for. Such markings could not be picked up by the machine, but on an expensive recount and audit, the election boards would allow such a vote to count.
Voters were not the only ones making mistakes. We all need to remember that our election officials are part-time workers who help on election day once every now and then. They may be instructed on the proper procedures, but once in awhile a mistake is made. As a result of these human errors, a vote that should have been counted was not counted. These minor changes often balance each other out and will not have an effect on a vast majority of elections. If an election is really close, then it may make sense to check it out. However, for a 20,000+ vote differential in a state election, it is a complete waste of everyone’s time.
Recounts Distract your Elected Officials from Performing their Duties to the Taxpayers
Some might argue that since Jill Stein is paying for the recount, why should anyone care? The answer is that there are a lot of non-monetary damages that are not reimbursed. The county and city clerks are mostly elected officials. Their salaries are not included in the bill to Jill Stein. As such, the taxpayers are forced to foot the bill of their elected officials focusing their attention upon the recount rather than on all the other duties. Jill Stein’s recount resulted in thousands of elected officials having to focus upon the recount rather than serving the people who elected them. These elected officials spent hours bringing in part-time workers, finding facilities for the recount, organizing workers to handle new procedures, and organizing schedules with other county officials like the Sheriff’s Department to ensure that everything moves forward.
While the state of Wisconsin will recoup most but not all of the costs, the taxpayers of Michigan are going to foot a huge portion of the bill because Michigan was only able to charge Jill Stein around a million dollars for a five million dollar plus project. Hopefully, the Jill Stein recount will force most state legislatures to examine their recount procedures and make the necessary changes so that the state may be able to charge the full amount for any future sour losers.
While the state legislatures can reexamine their state elections code, the American people need to reexamine how they obtain their news. Everyone knows that many websites make their money based on how many people are visiting their pages. As such, websites need traffic. In order to get traffic, they need to create headlines that people not only click upon, but that they also share on social media.
There is a difference between yellow journalism and partisan journalism. All journalism is partisan. No one is capable of writing the news without inserting into their writings their education, personal experiences, and political prejudices. There is nothing wrong with partisan journalism. When Thomas Jefferson was Secretary of State and he did not like what George Washington was doing, Jefferson hired an editor and started a newspaper to educate the American people on a different way to run the country.
When conservatives felt that the news media was too biased, they created and dominated the day-time talk radio stations. When conservatives saw the power that the liberals had in social media, they created websites where one can obtain the conservative view. During the 1800’s, most newspapers in this country were controlled by the county political parties. People would buy their newspapers based upon the political bent that they wanted in their news. There is nothing wrong with this.
The problem with yellow journalism is that it feeds information that has not been substantiated. These sensational news stories create fear and division. Yellow journalism does nothing for the people, but it does make the website owner a lot of money.
The United States was able to break its yellow fever mainly due to the genius of S.S. McClure. In 1893, S.S. McClure, during the height of yellow journalism, started McClure’s Magazine. S.S. McClure hired some of the best investigative journalists in the country. He did not require them to produce monthly stories. Instead, they were on salary, and if it took them two years to produce a story that was just fine with him. S.S. McClure was more interested in quality over quantity
These in-depth detailed news stories became so popular that the yellow journalist had to change the way that they reported the news. Think about it, if you are sitting at a table and you have your choice of a nice juicy steak or a hamburger from your local fast food joint, which are you going to eat? The change was not overnight, but as the people stopped purchasing the yellow journalism newspapers and started buying the well-researched magazine articles, the journalist had to change.
Yellow Journalism Ends with You
As a consumer, the next time you click on an internet news story, stop and look at how well the story is researched. Are there multiple interviews with people with first-hand knowledge of the situation? Are there official documents that are used to support the writer’s positions? If so, then go ahead and share the story. However, if not, you as the consumer must not let the fraud continue.
The internet is going through a growing up phase right now and yellow journalism is all over the internet. Be careful what you share. Be careful what you read. Everyone is trying to make their buck on the internet. However, take the time to check the source of the story. If it is a well-established news source that has a political bent similar to yours, support that website and help them out by reading and sharing their articles.