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ELECTION 2020: A Republic, if You Can Keep It

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Florida’s hanging chads from the 2000 Bush vs Gore contest will look like a walk in the park compared to what it will take to declare a winner this year.

COVID-19 has completely upended how votes are cast and counted.  It is inevitable that in competitive states such as Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania delays will happen in getting to the final tally. This is why it is so critical that election officials, starting with Secretaries of State, make it convenient to vote and put in place proper safeguards from the start.

Understandably, Pew Research found that most Americans (64%) favor their state allowing all voters to vote by mail or absentee ballot.  The challenge is the discussion has been oversimplified as either “mail or absentee voting is good” or “mail or absentee voting is bad.”  The reality is that few states have experience with mail-in elections. Going into 2020, only four states conducted all mail-in elections, and it took them years to refine the process, secure the proper equipment, and train officials.

As we have seen in state elections this year, states that have done it right provide voters with trustworthy voting and timely results. Yet, states that have done it wrong raise legitimate concerns and delay results.

In New York, two outcomes offer insights on what are plausible scenarios in the general election. First, multiple weeks after the primaries occurred, there were still three contests for U.S. House that a winner had not been officially.

Second, in the Special Election in the 27th Congressional District, the Republican, Chris Jacobs, led 70-28% on Election Night.  Weeks later with nearly all the mail-in votes counted, his lead is 53 - 45%. 

The logical conclusion is that, at this point, Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on mail or absentee voting.  A prominent Republican pollster, Glen Bolger, recently tweeted: “Yikes—just finished a statewide survey in a swing state.  The quarter of the voters who plan to vote by mail or absentee break 15% Trump/75% Biden on the Pres. ballot.  Republicans are skeptical about voting by mail, and that is a problem up and down the ballot.” 

Let’s fast forward to the fall election.  A recent USA Today article cited the conclusions of Greg Miller, co-founder and chief operations officer of the OSET Institute, a research firm developing open source technology.  “Short of a landslide, it’s possible no one will know who won the White House on Nov. 4.  If it’s very close, the count could go to Thanksgiving—or longer.”

Now, connect the dots on a very plausible scenario. On Election Night, President Trump is ahead and winning in the Electoral College. Trump and Republicans are elated. Democrats and the media pundits who have made it clear they are for Biden caution that votes which have not been counted – mail-in and absentees—could well change things.

Late on Election Night, President Trump declares victory, asks Biden to concede victory in the interests of bringing the country together.  Biden refuses.

Days turn into weeks, and the 600 lawyers already hired by the Biden campaign are in courts doing whatever it takes to advantage his candidacy. Biden slowly crawls from his deficit and starts to take over states, mostly ones run by Democrats. At some point, Biden decides he has won and demands President Trump concede. This leaves America with the nine Justices of the Supreme Court deciding which ballots are counted and which are not.

There is only one conclusion to be reached here. The 2020 election will put a strain on the very foundations of our democracy.  Unless Americans are prepared to have another Presidential election decided by the courts, we need our election officials to do what it takes to assure we have an election that is safe, fair, and honest. The words of Benjamin Franklin have never rung truer.  When asked by a group of citizens what sort of government the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had created, he replied "A republic, if you can keep it.”

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