by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
America’s elections have come under much scrutiny over the past few years. Following the 2016 presidential election, investigations went underway to determine what role foreign influences could have played in the election. This year, allegations of voter fraud are being investigated in numerous states, and all of this combined could undermine public confidence in our future elections. That is why this week, JLF’s Dr. Don van der Vaart argued for use of the precautionary principle in preserving public confidence in elections. Dr. van der Vaart writes:
Most of us understand the necessity of making a cost/benefit analysis (CBA) when considering a more restrictive regulation or law or thinking of making a major expenditure. The decision to move forward is supported when its benefits far outweigh the costs…
[However,] when we lack a full understanding of how a proposed action may alleviate a problem, however, estimating the costs and the benefits of the action can be difficult. Sometimes officials will invoke the precautionary principle to argue for taking action. The idea is to favor taking the action despite uncertain costs and benefits if a supposed benefit is to avert alleged catastrophic outcomes.
Dr. van der Vaart explains how the precautionary principle was used in the battle against climate change at the turn of the 21st Century. He writes:
In the mid-2000s, North Carolina and other states were contemplating the need to reduce manmade GHGs despite a still-incomplete understanding… So those who desired government action to reduce manmade GHGs invoked the precautionary principle.
The UN stated the principle explicitly as early as 1992 when it admonished officials to proceed while the understanding was still incomplete (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change):
“The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost. [Emphasis added.]”
Dr. van der Vaart claims that voter fraud, too, should be granted action through the precautionary principle, writing:
We are now faced with the possibility of nationwide voter fraud after the November elections… In addition, digital voting machines were deployed throughout the country despite having been condemned from both sides of the aisle just two years ago…
Finally, lest we attempt to convince ourselves that voter fraud is largely a fiction, recall that our own federal election for the 9th Congressional District in 2018 was overturned based on affidavits as evidence.