- - Monday, November 12, 2018


This sounds elemental, as it ought to be. Every legitimate voter — from new immigrant to descendant of the Mayflower voyager — is endowed with exactly the same electoral value, one vote and each voter entitled to cast it only once. Citizens one and all, they settle their differences on Election Day. Or so they think. Then cries and shrieks split the morning-after calm, pleading that the tally is unfinished, incorrect, illegitimate.

Now it’s happening again, in Florida, naturally, but elsewhere, too. Why can’t a nation that teaches arithmetic to first-graders (usually successfully) count votes? An immaculate election this was not.

The midterm elections produced the predictable nail-biters, and fair enough. With every winner comes a loser and many times the races are close. We’re a divided country. This year hearts stopped all over the map. Among the most heart-stopping were high-profile races in Florida, Georgia and Arizona. Ron DeSantis, the Republican, went to bed in Florida on election night thinking he had defeated Andrew Gillum, and was safely the governor-elect. In Florida, Rick Scott turned out the light thinking he had unseated Sen. Bill Nelson in a race for the U.S. Senate.

In Georgia, Brian Kemp, the Republican, thought he had been elected governor, and probably was, but Stacey Abrams, who had Oprah Winfrey riding shotgun on her bandwagon, refused to concede. Krysten Sinema, the Democratic candidate, was finally declared the winner of the race for John McCain’s seat in the U.S. Senate from Arizona.

None of these races were won easily, and perhaps that’s as it should be, too. But Florida is unmatched for elections that smell a lot like fish. Ignoring vote tabulation deadlines, Democratic election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties turned up an additional 93,000 votes just when they were needed, including a box of provisional ballots just when and where they were needed most. A Broward County teacher discovered one ballot box in an elementary school storage room.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, a Democrat, has been a suspicious character since a judge ruled that she destroyed ballots during counting in 2016. This cycle, she has blown past a deadline for reporting ballot totals; the governor sued to halt what he called “rampant fraud.” A county judge instructed her to report vote data by Friday evening. But soon the results triggered automatic recounts as required by state law.

Like many New Yorkers who make Florida their second home, President Trump watched the gathering reprise of the vote-counting in disbelief at the same mischief that made Florida’s hanging chads a national joke during the Bush-Gore presidential election of 2000. “You mean they are now finding votes in Florida and Georgia,” he tweeted in jest. “But the election was on Tuesday? Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin.” More seriously, he told reporters, “They have had a horrible history. And all of a sudden they’re finding votes out of nowhere.” Heartened by his rising numbers, Andrew Gillum pulled back his concession in the race for governor.

Armies of lawyers have marched into the theater of conflict, meaning the winners will likely be chosen by judges. That’s unfortunate. A generation ago, it took the U.S. Supreme Court to sort out the charge and countercharge, hot air and hanging chads to finally award the presidency to George W. Bush. Al Gore and the Democrats never surrendered their anger, bile and resentment, and have been running on it since.

An immaculate election may be the stuff of dreams, but ensuring that every legal vote is counted ought to be an exercise in arithmetic, not politics.

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