- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2018

Democrat Stacey Abrams’ refusal to concede and her challenge to the legitimacy of the election after losing a close race for governor in Georgia would have stunned the nation if not for the frequency of such alarming claims.

From Democrat Andrew Gillum withdrawing his concession at one point in Florida’s governor’s race to objections — including a congressional challenge to the Electoral College vote — in all three Republican presidential victories this century, Democrats increasingly level accusations of trickery and illegality to explain their election loses.

But Republicans didn’t issue similar claims of illegitimacy when Barack Obama won the White House, despite activists from the liberal group ACORN being convicted for voter registration fraud or election fraud in such states as Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

“You have a Democrat Party that has a long history of stealing [elections] whose defense is to attack everybody else,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican who represented Georgia. “It’s a strategy.”

Mr. Gingrich argued that Democrats these days present themselves as presumed winners, whether in a swing state like Florida or a red state like Texas, with the angle of thus being able to challenge any election result that does not go their way.

“It’s almost as if they believe they have a divine right to win. So if they lose in Georgia or they lose in Alabama it must have been stolen,” he said.

Indeed, such prominent Democrats as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio declared that the only way Ms. Abrams could have lost the election was if she had been cheated. They didn’t change their position after the election was called in favor of Republican Brian Kemp.

Republicans also lodge complaints of ballot box shenanigans, although with less regularity.

In recent years, President Trump has been the most likely Republican to claim voter fraud. He said that “millions” of illegal votes were cast in 2016, which he said is why he lost the popular vote to Mrs. Clinton.

He established a commission to investigate voter fraud, but it was quickly dissolved.

In renewing his call for national voter ID laws, Mr. Trump told The Daily Caller that Republican election loses often are due to fraud.

“When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump weathers the most aggressive effort to delegitimize a presidency in modern history.

Scores of Democratic lawmakers boycotted his inauguration claiming his election was illegitimate. Some skipped it in solidarity with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat whom Mr. Trump blasted for calling his presidency illegitimate.

Rather than concede and organize as an opposition party, Democrats launched what they called “the resistance.”

Nearly two years into his presidency, Mr. Trump operates under the cloud of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged campaign collusion with Russia.

Richard E. Vatz, a scholar of political rhetoric at Towson University, said the accusations of election fraud are escalating, in part, because of the intensified political polarization of the country in the Trump era.

But it’s not entirely new and it’s not all hot air, he said.

“Elections actually have a long history of cheating, according to who has the power to count the votes,” said the professor. “In the close 1960 election, many, including yours truly, believe that Democratic votes of Texas and Illinois were illegally added to ensure Kennedy’s victory.”

After falling short in the vote tally last week, despite 10 days of counting and her lawsuits to include previously rejected ballots, Ms. Abrams said she lost but would not concede because the outcome was not “right, true or proper.”

She called Mr. Kemp the “architect of voter suppression” that secured an ill-gotten win, even though, despite being Georgia’s secretary of state, almost all the specific actions that she complained about were either mandated by state law or the work of county election boards.

She accused Mr. Kemp tilting the election in his favor by aggressively purging rolls of inactive voters, and enforcing an “exact match” policy for checking voters identities.

Ms. Abrams vowed to file a federal lawsuit over the way Georgia’s elections are run. “It was not a free and fair election,” she later said on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” program.

Mr. Kemp called for unity.

“In Georgia we have secure [and] fair elections,” he told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” program. “She may not like the laws but we take an oath of office and the county elections officials have a duty to follow the law and election rules we have in out state.”

Bernie Marcus, the retired co-founder of Atlanta-headquartered Home Depot, said Ms. Abrams’ refusal to concede would have repercussions beyond politics.

“Georgia’s film industry-related small businesses are about to experience the bitter taste of Stacey Abrams’ sour grapes,” he wrote in a column for Real Clear Politics. He warned that threatened Hollywood boycotts in defense of Ms. Abrams threatened the state’s thriving film industry and related businesses.

In a stark contrast to Ms. Abrams, Republican Martha McSally posted a warm and homey concession video to acknowledge Democrat Kyrsten Sinema bested her in a close and drawn-out vote count for Senate in Arizona.

“I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate,” she said, sitting on her living room couch beside her golden retriever Boomer.

Ms. Abrams set a new standard for surrender in elections by refusing to make the concession that is the hallmark of the peaceful transfer of power in a democracy.

However, Democrats in recent elections have repeatedly both conceded and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome.

For years, they questioned the outcome of the 2000 presidential race after the Florida recount battle ended in favor of Republican George W. Bush.

Four years later, Democrats cried foul over Ohio election results that secured President Bush re-election win over Democrat John Kerry.

Democrats alleged irregularities such as rejected provisional ballots, misallocation of voting machines and long lines in black neighborhoods — the same complaints leveled by Ms. Abrams in Georgia.

After the 2004 presidential race, Democratic lawmakers took the unusual step of objecting to the certification of Ohio’s Electoral College votes.

That was the first congressional objection to an entire state’s electoral delegation since 1877. The last-ditch maneuver by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California was handily defeated in House and Senate votes.

It takes an objection in both the House and the Senate to force a debate on a challenge to the Electoral College vote. House Democrats attempted challenges in 2000 and 2016, but failed to enlist a senator.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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