Editorial: Answer threats to integrity of U.S. elections

Published 7:30 pm Sunday, September 10, 2017

With recent news that Facebook is investigating a Russian “troll farm” that set up dozens of fake Facebook accounts to influence the U.S. election and a Supreme Court case over gerrymandering, there’s plenty of doubt to go around about the integrity of the U.S. election system.

As President Donald Trump said during the campaign: “The system’s rigged.” It’s so far unclear if Trump knew that rigged system would put him in the White House. On the surface, to many Americans, it seems counter intuitive that Hillary Clinton could get 3 million more votes than Trump and yet lose the election.

The Electoral College system is too complex for people to think it’s fair, or even logical. Change of that system seems unrealistic. That debate is left to the scholars with their patched-elbow sport coats and pipes of cherry tobacco.

Email newsletter signup

But our elected leaders are charged with making sure the people feel confident in their elections. Those leaders control great amounts of public resources to ensure voting equipment is updated and works properly and that personnel manning the polls are qualified and have integrity.

Facebook is a bigger problem. And at some point, elected leaders should call out information they know is false, even it if harms their opponent and enhances their chances. Both sides in the presidential election “shared” information on Facebook they knew to be untrue about their opponent.

Those leaders and the government cannot restrain Facebook, as that would be an inadvisable infringement on First Amendment Rights, but they certainly can call Facebook to account on bringing light to how it operates its business. We have yet to see President Trump tweet “Facebook: Fake news,” even though he has many times targeted news organizations who actually check their facts.

The bipartisan coalition urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down gerrymandered state legislative districts in Wisconsin is a remarkable plea. Republicans and Democrats see how sophisticated software has allowed partisans to redraw districts in strange and nonsensical ways to give political advantage to one party.

A brief filed in the case by 65 former legislators, including 26 Republicans, stated: “In recent years, the two major political parties, leveraging the technologies of the modern age, have intentionally and systematically excluded each other from state legislatures like never before. Democrats rigged the maps in Illinois, Maryland and Rhode Island, while Republicans did so in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.”

So the Supreme Court can start to restore the integrity to our democracy by striking down the gerrymandered districts in Wisconsin. The rest of us can start by demanding accountability not only from election officials but also from even more powerful media institutions such as Facebook.

Why it matters:

An election system without integrity strikes at the heart of legitimate democracy.

— Mankato Free Press, Sept. 7

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

email author More by Editorial