Inquiries into election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin probably won't change the outcome of the race between Republican president-elect Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump's victory margins seem too wide for Clinton to overcome. But results should be examined for the public's benefit, not the candidates.
Recounts can focus light on long-known problems with the system. For years, computer scientists have been hacking computerized voting systems to expose defects, but governments have been too slow to respond. The systems are overdue for an overhaul. This summer voter records in Arizona and Illinois were hacked. Those records are not connected to actual voting machines and thus can't affect results. Most often results can be changed if machines themselves are hacked, which is very easy, or if they malfunction. Too many jurisdictions, including many in Pennsylvania, use electronic-only machines, which don't have a paper audit trail, making errors hard to detect.
But predictably, Trump's not helping. His reflexive prevarications and threats over probes are anything but presidential, showing more concern for self-validation than improving the government for the people. After stewing for a few days, he used a fake news story from an alternative reality to charge that millions voted illegally. He echoed a yarn shopped by alt-right bloggers and discredited months ago. But in Trump fights, facts are the first casualties. The fake story is useful because it fits a narrative that calls undocumented persons a scourge upon our land.
Oddly, Trump's false charges make the case for him to want a recount. But his goal is to discredit anything that conflicts with his often faulty narrative.
Equally as disgraceful is Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway's threat to open a criminal probe into Clinton because her campaign will participate in the examinations. Trump's campaign should be involved as well so it can study up on clean election reform.
In 12-hours of Twitter snits Sunday, Trump acted as if Clinton's election-night concession is a legal bond. That's either a misunderstanding of how elections work or a cynical manipulation of those who don't understand the process. Here's a bit of real news for Trump: Elections are decided by voters whose votes are then counted and certified by local and state authorities.
Irrational outbursts by Trump and his surrogates should not distract the public from pursuing its interest in clean elections. If voting is undermined by sloppy election boards, bad equipment, or fraud, there is no hope, even less participation, and ultimately, no democracy.