A growing campaign to reexamine the results of the presidential election may come to fruition for Hillary Clinton supporters and Donald Trump opponents, this is another ray of hope that could actually turn into something. Trump's small margins of victory in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are the subject of renewed scrutiny from scientists and citizens alike, which may prompt state officials to initiate an audit of the votes. Although this is certainly welcome news for the millions who don't want to see Trump take office in January, it begs the question of why this process didn't happen three weeks ago shortly following the election. Why don't we have an automatic vote audit?
There's no exact answer as to why the U.S. doesn't automatically have a vote audit, but there are a couple of reasons why the issue has never really come up before. The 2000 election was the first time since 1888 that the popular vote did not match the Electoral College vote, which makes the results much more controversial and worth looking in to.
When Al Gore lost Florida to George Bush by just a few thousand votes, Gore's campaign took it upon themselves to pursue an investigation into the votes, not the Department of Justice. Only a candidate can request an audit, or the DOJ can decide to investigate if they sense something fishy. “The Justice Department does not tally the number of callers to determine whether federal action is warranted,” department spokesman David Jacobs said in a statement, responding the recent influx of calls from citizens requesting a vote audit. “Investigatory decisions are based solely on the facts and evidence as they relate to the federal statutes the department enforces.”
Another reason why this election is prompting a potential audit is that the issue of hacking has never been as serious a problem before. Admiral Michael Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, specifically said that Russia tried to interfere with the election by leaking information like the DNC emails, and there are some who believe that the Russian government also tried to directly influence the results by hacking voting systems. And although Russia may not have interfered with the election itself, that doesn't mean Clinton shouldn't request an audit anyway to investigate. It could show that she actually won the vote in any of the three close states. She'd need Florida and either Wisconsin or Michigan to flip, but the audit could prove that as the case.
Finally, it's been sufficient in the past for each state to have different laws about when to initiate an audit. They're maybe a little antiquated in light of the digital technology the country uses to tally votes, but they're still there for when they need to be used. This time is different because of the hacking, which should probably prompt a nationwide audit automatically in and of itself. Although a federal mandate for an audit could get into some tricky legal territory since each state runs its own elections, it could be necessary this time to ensure that the person who was democratically elected is able to serve as president.
This election is so divisive that it just seems to make sense to have an audit and make sure everything is kosher. At least then the country might be able to rest a little easier knowing that the results were real and no manipulated, and everyone can move forward and try to come together for the next four years. Without it, the distrust in American political institutions will continue to grow with this election as supporting evidence, and things could be even scarier when the country elects a new president in 2020.