A "Legitimate" Question

CNTRD's Michael asks about the how people view the legitimacy of the U.S. electoral process.

The discussion below only represents the views of Michael Hsiung. The viewpoints expressed do not represent the CNTRD. However, CNTRD does strive for authenticity in its members, so this is one of the places where we discuss differing viewpoints.  

This discussion is dedicated to all of my insightful, right-leaning friends, whom I cherish but disagree with. Differing viewpoints and responses have made me more analytical about my thoughts and beliefs.

As the 2020 Presidential and Congressional Election results come to a close, rumors about conspiracy and fraud in the electoral process abound. Because I recognize that I am living in a left-leaning echo chamber, I am legitimately and genuinely curious about your thoughts about the legitimacy of the electoral process. 


A person with a masters in a liberal arts can help answer the question of morality/philosophy better than I can, so I will leave that type of discussion to them. Since I am more trained in the social sciences, I want to ask questions that are slightly unconventional for a pundit or activist. I am mostly interested in how things work, not why we should feel morally a certain way. To illustrate, imagine that I was omnipotent. For any questions that are scientific, I should be able to easily peek into and point out the empirical and observable facts. We are not omnipotent or a god, but we might be able to have access to some degree of data that can verify or change our beliefs. 


Here are my general questions in order: (1) What is the likelihood (in percentages) that the electoral system is legitimate? (2) If the electoral process is not legit, how and why? (3) What hypothesis-driven tests can we create to verify your mistrust or disbelief? The goal is to help me create a picture of how the other side sees the world. 


Question 1: What is the likelihood (in percentages) that the electoral system is legitimate? 


You might think it is weird that I am asking for a probability rather than a “yes or no” question. I have two main reasons. One, I hate binary thinking, and, two, we do not know anything for sure. 


This question is not asking if the electoral process is representative or fair. I am not even asking if you believe the electoral process makes no mistakes at all. I am asking what is the likelihood of the electoral process to actually do what it says it does according to the rules established beforehand. Since you do not know for sure, give me your belief in probability just for me. 🙂 


Question 2: If the electoral process is not legit, how and why?


Every conspiracy or mistake needs a cause and effect. Where in the process do the stakeholders stop playing by the rules? Most importantly, I am interested in how you think the vote can be either miscounted or misrepresented. 


Question 3: What hypothesis-driven test can we create to verify your mistrust or disbelief? 


This question is a direct follow up to question 2. Now that we have a theory about how things are working versus how it should actually work, what kind of evidence and hard date can we find to reinforce the veracity of the theory. Better yet, what are the hypothetical results we need to see for your theory to fail (see Karl Popper). 


A falsifiable theory for someone like me who believes that the electoral process is most likely legitimate: If the election process is not legitimate, it is because somewhere the vote count is not representative of the true state of the world. If that is the case we will be able to see the following: (1) huge discrepancy or inconsistency in the recount, (2) large number votes that cannot be traced to a single individual, and (3) the election commission members have financial ties with certain parties or individuals involved in the electoral process. 


I am interested to see what my right leaning friends believe to be good evidence for their theory to work. If there is evidence behind a good theory, I, perhaps, should reevaluate my world view and recalibrate. 


As you can see, I do not actually mind a recount because it will make it harder for rule-breaking to occur. More good data is always better. These days, I believe that empirical data is easier to parse than pundits and news opinions, so the more data the better. Please let me know your thoughts and answers to my questions. I am genuinely interested in finding testable hypotheses to your theories.  


Ground Rules for Discussion: 

  1. I am mostly interested in what the right-leaning individuals see and how they interact with the world. 
  2. Focus should be on the electoral process not policies. 
  3. Remember, these are my friends who will be jumping into this discussion; I expect you to respect that. Kindness, empathy, and curiosity should drive the conversation. 
  4. For those from the more moderate or left-leaning side, people may come up with theories that are hard to believe. I would ask that we stay away from criticizing the theory itself but rather if the hypothesis truly tests the theory in question. 


Michael Hsiung is a founder and head of strategy science for CNTRD. CNTRD is a consulting firm that works with executives to unveil the various viewpoints within the organization. Unlike other firms, CNTRD embraces the existence of biases (see this article). We can quickly pull out multiple perspectives from multiple individuals in the team and help people see how change could occur. We help our customers create change by pulling together a team with no fluff. We are proud to be fast, lean, and economical. If you would like to pick a CNTRD team member’s brain, do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]