Why would Al Schmidt, GOP Philadelphia election commissioner, be “baffled” by election fraud claims?

Even though the fol­low­ing state­ment needs expla­na­tion to be ful­ly appre­ci­at­ed (forth­com­ing on the “offi­cial” pages of this site), it is not wrong to say that log­ic is all about relat­ing indi­vid­ual pieces of infor­ma­tion in a con­sis­tent way. “Consistent” means non-con­tra­dic­to­ry, or rather, rec­on­cil­able. An appar­ent ten­den­cy of two state­ments to appear incon­sis­tent calls for express dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion in order to rec­on­cile them, with the log­i­cal­ly required depth of dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing dis­cus­sion depend­ing on the extent to which both pieces of infor­ma­tion appear similar.

The reproach of act­ing in an illog­i­cal way hits, thus, where state­ments are being made that bring relat­ed dec­la­ra­tions in the oppo­site direc­tion into rec­ol­lec­tion with­out express­ly dis­cussing what dif­fer­en­ti­ates the lat­ter from the former.

According to news­pa­per reports, Philadelphia GOP elec­tion com­mis­sion­er Al Schmidt has been “slap­ping down alle­ga­tions of wide­spread vot­er fraud”, expressed him­self “dumb­found­ed by the base­less accu­sa­tions and rumors that have been cir­cu­lat­ed about the elec­tion results” and “baf­fled by the situation”.

Given his doc­u­ment­ed pri­or pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence, one would have expect­ed a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing dis­cus­sion on his part, instead of an unsub­stan­ti­at­ed denial of in part very con­crete alle­ga­tions. The sub­stan­tial­ly relat­ed back­ground, dat­ing back to 2011, read against which Schmidt’s cur­rent state­ments appear want­i­ng, is laid out here:

The sole Republican among Philadelphia’s three-mem­ber city com­mis­sion­ers (the group that runs elec­tions) today issued a scathing report about the May pri­ma­ry in the city, alleg­ing a wide range of vot­ing irregularities.

He says his review found sev­en dif­fer­ent types of vot­ing issues, including:

“People vot­ing twice, vot­ing by non-cit­i­zens who are not eli­gi­ble to vote, to peo­ple vot­ing who are not reg­is­tered to vote, to peo­ple vot­ing in par­ties oth­er than their own.”

Also not­ed are instances of vot­ing by peo­ple in the wrong party’s pri­ma­ry, vot­ing by peo­ple in the wrong dis­trict, and divi­sions with more votes than voters.

Schmidt esti­mates the num­ber of such issues city­wide at between 200 and 1,000.

But he con­ced­ed that with­out a top-to-bot­tom review of the vot­ing books, he does not real­ly know how wide­spread the prob­lems are.

Democratic city com­mis­sion­er Stephanie Singer crit­i­cized Schmidt’s report as “put togeth­er in a hur­ry” and dis­missed Schmidt’s alle­ga­tions of inci­dents of vot­er impersonation.

Schmidt rec­om­mends sev­er­al changes, includ­ing that a com­plete, man­u­al review of all results be con­duct­ed after every election.

Singer says she sup­ports that con­cept but says her office cur­rent­ly lacks the com­put­er infra­struc­ture to do so.

So why would a GOP elec­tion com­mis­sion­er elect to not dis­cuss even the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the alleged vot­ing irreg­u­lar­i­ties took place this time around as well?

Somewhat “baf­fled” now myself, I took the time to go through the last months of his offi­cial Facebook posts, and I would pre­sume that many peo­ple famil­iar with the US polit­i­cal uni­verse would start to make prob­a­bilis­tic infer­ences and seek to fur­ther inves­ti­gate their valid­i­ty from con­tex­tu­al­ly con­tem­plat­ing two posts of which I pro­vide screen­shots below:

I do not have the time to lay out in desir­able detail the fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion that I myself indeed sum­mar­i­ly con­duct­ed, and there are always shades and nuances where peo­ple may come to dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions in good faith. Yet the shades and nuances in the entire process of per­cep­tion and pro­cess­ing of per­cep­tions with regard to the recent elec­tion and (not just US) pol­i­tics as a whole appear to be pre­cise­ly what is decid­ed­ly lack­ing, ever increas­ing­ly so, as crys­tal clear as the deci­sion of who the win­ner of the 2020 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion actu­al­ly is must ulti­mate­ly be.

It may appear that some peo­ple inter­est­ed in the out­come of the 2020 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion have some­what loos­ened their con­tact with well-doc­u­ment­ed real­i­ty. Among them, the the­o­ry is appar­ent­ly mak­ing the rounds that the alle­ga­tion of the mere pos­si­bil­i­ty of large scale – espe­cial­ly mail-in-bal­lot-based – vot­er fraud were to amount to spread­ing a “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry”.1

Yet strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar things to what the cam­paign for the Republican pres­i­den­tial can­di­date is alleg­ing may have hap­pened on a large scale in the most fierce­ly con­test­ed US “swing states” has in fact been ascer­tained to have hap­pened, with elec­tion-result-swing­ing out­come, in a court of law2 – utter­ly “unbe­liev­able”, but real. The cor­re­spond­ing media reports may pos­si­bly be worth an atten­tive, in part even enter­tain­ing read for any­one who favors con­fronting con­spir­a­cy real­i­ty over con­demn­ing “con­spir­a­cy theories”.

_____
  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/11/04/election-results-misinformation/; https://www.npr.org/2020/11/06/931888744/trump-latches-on-to-conspiracies-as-legal-battles-fail-and-path-to-win-narrows[]
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/apr/05/uk.localgovernment; https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/councillors-guilty-postal-votes-fraud-would-shame-banana-republic-5350422.html; high­ly illu­mi­nat­ing and inter­est­ing in this con­text, not least since it regards Pennsylvania, also Marks v. Stinson, https://casetext.com/case/marks-v-stinson, https://digitalcommons.law.villanova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2930&context=vlr[]
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We had expressed ourselves confident to be able to predict the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election with a high degree of confidence based on financial market behavior. What we figured out – with the highest degree of confidence – was that we were maximally uncertain about the outcome (keeping us in silent consternation). Which in hindsight would appear exactly as the correct assessment to have been made.
An Egyptian man takes a hostage at knifepoint in the Milan cathedral, threatening to slit his victim’s throat. A once reputable Italian paper tells its readers that police “convinced him to lay down his weapon and release the hostage”, when in fact, for everyone to see on video, police had to forcefully overwhelm him. The full and unredacted video, in turn, explodes on social media.

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Logic is all about relating individual pieces of information in a consistent way. “Consistent” means non-contradictory. An apparent tendency of two pieces of information to appear inconsistent calls for express differentiating clarification, with the logically required depth of differentiating discussion depending on the extent to which both pieces of information appear similar.
We had expressed ourselves confident to be able to predict the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election with a high degree of confidence based on financial market behavior. What we figured out – with the highest degree of confidence – was that we were maximally uncertain about the outcome (keeping us in silent consternation). Which in hindsight would appear exactly as the correct assessment to have been made.
An Egyptian man takes a hostage at knifepoint in the Milan cathedral, threatening to slit his victim’s throat. A once reputable Italian paper tells its readers that police “convinced him to lay down his weapon and release the hostage”, when in fact, for everyone to see on video, police had to forcefully overwhelm him. The full and unredacted video, in turn, explodes on social media.