I got this in a newsletter email from Silicon Valley Bank, and found it both hilarious and scary.
Win, Lose, or Draw?
No matter who your favorite is in tomorrow’s contest, the one outcome that people seem most worried about is the third option listed above a draw. It’s remarkable how universal human worries are. Don’t forget: the markets hate uncertainty as well. Months ago, we bemoaned the probability that a few million voters in “battleground states” would elect the next president, and that the rest of us could stay home. We think this early assessment may turn out to be badly off the mark. Soon, we may face the prospect that this election will be decided by a few thousand attorneys and a couple dozen judges. This is the simple result of the fateful decision to litigate the 2000 election. The integrity of the system was attacked, and it buckled enough to set political operatives everywhere calculating. The other obvious lesson from ’00 was that the voting laws in this country have questionable integrity. They are enforced with less rigor than the laws against underage smoking, purchasing beer, or jumping a turnstile in the New York City subway. With the outcome so close and enforcement so lax the incentive to cheat has grown geometrically.
Naturally, the strategies now deployed by the main parties are skewed according to the expected leanings of the targeted pool of voters. Republicans are trying to ensure that the absentee ballots of all overseas voters get counted, and Democrats are rounding up new voters in low-turnout neighborhoods at a rapid pace. It was, perhaps, the result of one of these registration drives that caused three additional ballots to turn up at my home: one for Marie Jean Morio, one for Christian Andre Morio, and one for Bernadette Marie Morio. Unfortunately, the Morios don’t live with me. In fact, from what we understand, they moved away about two years ago to their home of permanent residence and citizenship France. (Believe me, I wish I were making this up.) In San Francisco, where boxes of ballots are commonly discovered a few weeks after the polls close floating forlornly in the bay, election fraud is a time-honored tradition on par with a ride on a cable car or a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Although this is probably true of most big U.S. cities, here we like to do things a little differently. For example, tomorrow we have a measure on the ballot to permit noncitizens to vote in school board elections. (No, we are not making this up either). The law, if it passes, may be unconstitutional. It certainly would be superfluous, as it appears that noncitizens are already voting in our elections.
The bigger problem of these successful legal attacks on the system is that national elections will devolve into banana-republic-style disputes where the loser never concedes, self-righteously claiming fraud. So far, neither party has advanced any proposals to fix the system on a national basis. And as long as the “system” works for them in one key precinct or another, they will have no incentive to change anything. The situation is similar to the partisan views of gerrymandering congressional districts. If you control the governor’s mansion and the state legislature, then gerrymandering is a normal outcome of the political process. If you don’t have that power, then gerrymandering entrenches the party in power and completely disenfranchises voters. All this occurs at a time when the math and technology exist to create and adjust districts so that the geometrical integrity remains intact. So once the system has been sufficiently savaged and its credibility destroyed what will we have left? How will new citizens feel about voting in an environment where some people are trying to prevent you from voting and others are recruiting illegal voters to cancel you out? For the good of the country, and the markets, we hope that the vote tomorrow is decisive enough to send lawyers home with their briefs unread. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the Morios will come back from France to vote. Maybe I should go down to my polling place and check.