Guest column: Searching for the needle in a haystack

The Daily Ardmoreite
Tony Choate

A recent television commercial shows a graying, stubble-faced farmer in search of his lost cellphone. With the help of his high-tech watch, he easily finds the phone in the middle of a single haystack in an enormous field of rolled bales of hay.

This clever use of the old cliché, “like finding a needle in a haystack,” conveys some of the desperation involved in looking frantically for something so small but so important.

That old cliché also illustrates the difficulty of finding one needle when it looks like needles are everywhere among the straw.

Images in that commercial serve as a reminder of the frantic but futile search for voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Attorney General Bill Barr, who had openly anticipated potential for fraud in mail in ballots, openly announced in December that his investigation found there was no evidence of widespread fraud.  

Numerous other official state and federal investigations uncovered no evidence of widespread fraud.

Nevertheless, more than $250 million was collected in about two months to fund independent investigations and legal court challenges to the 2020 election results.

To this date, there is still a massive and well-funded search for that elusive needle in this particular haystack.

Republican candidates and numerous organizations have developed a cottage industry of claiming election fraud and inciting fear in voters. They point to the stacks of votes and keep promising there are needles in there somewhere.

They continue to raise enormous sums of money from constituents who may be unaware of the facts about investigations into claims of voter fraud.

However, these efforts to sew doubt about our democratic institutions are undermined by an “election fraud database” compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a well-respected conservative think tank

In what the foundation describes as a “sampling” of election fraud going back at least 16 years, and including cases from the Truman and Nixon eras, it documents “1,328 proven instances of voter fraud.”

While the number may seem frightening at first glance, it is important to evaluate that number in the context of the billions of votes represented.  

More than 3 billion votes were cast in federal elections included in the database, while the database also includes local, state and federal elections.

Considering the number of votes cast in elections for governors, lt. governors, state representatives, state senators, mayors, school board members and so on, the number of votes evaluated likely runs into the hundreds of billions.

Even for a sampling, the number is a miniscule percentage of the hundreds of billions of votes evaluated. Based on these numbers, to say voter fraud has been found in one in 100 million cases would be an exaggeration.

While all the evidence demonstrates that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, many voters have been convinced by elected officials and organizations that voter fraud poses a danger to our democracy.   

However, many understand the true danger to our democracy comes in the form of elected officials continuing to support the dozens of claims of election fraud that have been unanimously ruled invalid by our court system.  

If facts don’t threaten the cottage industry of election investigations, something academics call “cognitive dissonance” just may.

According to this theory, individuals cannot believe two mutually exclusive ideas at the same time.

While some Republican members of Congress and fund-raising organizations brought numerous claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, judges across America ruled unanimously that there is no evidence voter fraud changed the result of the 2020 presidential election.

Put simply, one cannot believe that voter fraud changed the results of the 2020 presidential election and still believe in the integrity of our American judicial system.

“Cognitive dissonance,” more commonly called common sense, threatens the cottage industry of collecting money to stage investigations of elections.

Common sense also threatens the effort to pass legislation making wholesale changes to the electoral system in many states across the United States.

These wholesale changes to our electoral system are simply an effort to fix something that is not broken.

While looking for the needle in the haystack, investigators discovered, once again, that our American electoral system sets the gold standard for accuracy and integrity.

— Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.