Count Every Vote – And This Time Do It Right

Printed from:

“Why should he concede?  I wouldn’t.”

—  John F. Kennedy, the morning after the close 1960 presidential election, referring to opponent Richard Nixon


The presidential election of 2020 has had a last-ups feel to it.

In baseball, no matter how far behind the home team gets, they know they have the chance to hit last. They also know how many runs they have to score, and that if they score enough runs to go ahead, the game ends immediately.

That’s how it feels to Donald Trump supporters, who saw him build substantial leads in key states on election night, only to see them evaporate in some of those states days later. Partisan ballot counters – some behind opaque windows – have assured us that Joe Biden went ahead, several days after the election ended. Now we’re all supposed to act like it’s all legit.

Yet the unfortunate election of November 2020 leaves many Americans with little confidence in the result.

It’s not just that a cognitively declining man with bad ideas and a demonstrated interest in making money from the Communist government of China may soon be taking over at least nominal leadership of the executive branch of the federal government. That’s bad, to be sure.

But the way it’s happening is also troubling.

As legal scholar Jonathan Turley said recently, one of the most important things about an election is that people on the losing side accept the result – because they are able to accept that the reported result is actually what happened.

The result Trump supporters are being asked to accept is hard to swallow.

The problem is the way this election has been run. Mail-everybody-a-ballot voting has been a disaster. The slow counting of mail-in ballots has also been a disaster.

There is no good reason in the computer age for counting votes to take days. In the time before computers, when all ballots were counted by hand, close elections in 1948 and 1960 produced a known winner less than 12 hours after polls closed.

Nor is this situation like the one in 2000, where an official tally left the two candidates about 1,000 votes apart in one crucial large state. That razor-thin margin demanded a lengthy recount. (The final official margin in Florida that year was 537 votes.)

Key differences in the Florida case from 2000:  a) It was one state; b) We had a preliminary winner of the state within eight hours of the election. (Which was eventually upheld.)

In the case of 2020, four states where the results are close took (or are still taking) so long to count their ballots that it undermines confidence in the counting. It took several states three days to change the count from Trump leading to Trump losing.

In a close election, that’s unacceptable.

Imagine, for instance, that a free and fair public recount of votes next week finds that — because of computer glitches, spoiled ballots, fraudulent ballots, misplaced military absentee ballots, or whatever – that Donald Trump actually has a net increase of slightly more than 10,195 votes in Georgia, or 18,610 votes in Arizona, or 20,540 votes in Wisconsin, or 27,530 votes in Nevada, or 41,223 votes in Pennsylvania.

Those are the differences between Biden and Trump reported as of Sunday morning, November 8 – four and half days after the election. Trump doesn’t need all five of these states to win. Pennsylvania plus any two of the other five states produces either a tie (which Trump would probably win in the U.S. House of Representatives, because Republicans control more state delegations in the House than Democrats) or a win for Trump.

Are these scenarios unlikely?  Yes.

Impossible? No.

If Americans are to move on from this election, we need a clear result that people on the losing side can understand. Right now, we don’t.

The recounts and ballot challenges the Trump campaign is currently pursuing are important, whether Trump prevails or not. For one thing, they offer Trump supporters a chance to decide based on more facts whether the election result is credible.

For another thing, they send a message to tricksters mulling shenanigans in future elections, by suggesting dirty tricks aren’t that easy to get away with.

But either way, major changes are needed for presidential elections in the future. This regrettable situation should not happen again.

Here are several reforms that should be pursued at state and federal levels:


1.  Stop the Election on Election Night

Late-arriving ballots simply should not count. The election, like life, has a deadline. Vote on election day or get your ballot delivered by election day – or get left out.


2.  Announce a Total Number of Ballots Cast in Each State Within Four Hours After the Polls Close

Election Night 2020 – which turned into Election Week – has been frustrating in part because there seems no end to the uncounted ballots that election officials in key states or cities controlled by Democrats stumble upon.

If you want faith in the system, let people know early how many votes there are in total. That way they know what to expect as the counting occurs. When people don’t know what’s going on, their suspicions increase.


3.  Outlaw Mail-Everybody-A-Ballot Voting

The chances for fraud and the difficulties of checking signatures against hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper make this system unbearable.

If you want to vote, register to vote and show up at the polls – or register to vote, and request an absentee ballot. It’s not that hard.


4.  End Ballot Harvesting

Someone with ties to a political party shows up at voters’ houses, collects their ballots, and then delivers them to city hall to be processed. What could go wrong?

A lot.

It is not asking too much of voters that they either show up on election day or request an absentee ballot by mail and then mail it in themselves. This isn’t “voter suppression.” It’s a reasonable way to minimize fraud.


5.  Stop Absurdly Early Voting

Millions of people voted before the first presidential debate. Millions more voted before they heard Joe Biden call for ending the oil industry during the second debate, and before proof emerged of Biden’s troubling business associations with Communist China.

It isn’t too much to ask that voters wait for late October before casting a ballot.


6.  Set A Quick Deadline for Counting Ballots

It’s unacceptable to have certain states reporting only 64 percent or 75 percent or even 90 percent of their ballots counted several days after the election. The only state that may deserve a pass on this requirement is Alaska, which is so spread out and has such bad weather in November that it’s tough to get quick results.

The other states can get it done. They’ve done it before.

Was it a different country?