The biggest loser in this election? Confidence in the voting process


Despite Joe Biden’s confidence in “the story this election is telling us” and the assumption that he’s going to win, the 2020 presidential election is still dragging on. Georgia is going to a recount and the potential for court challenges is still brewing in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona. I honestly don’t know if Donald Trump can pull one last, giant rabbit out of his hat here, but we’re obviously just going to have to be patient for a while longer while making sure that Republican officials are watching the process closely.

It’s that “process” that I wanted to talk about today. I was looking at one breathless report from the Associated Press while having coffee this morning and was struck by how desperately many MSM outlets seem to be to bat down any questions about how fairly, accurately and legally the counting is being handled. At this point, they’re attacking Republican objections to perceived irregularities more stridently than they are the President himself. Words such as “baseless” and “unproven” are dominating the headlines this weekend. And reporters are more interested in which Republicans are going along with Trump or gainsaying him than the underlying questions being raised.

President Donald Trump’s wild and unsupported claims of voter fraud have emerged as a high-stakes Republican loyalty test that illustrates the tug of war likely to define the future of the GOP whether he wins or loses the presidency.

There is a pervasive sense among current and former GOP officials that the president’s behavior is irresponsible if not dangerous, but a divide has emerged between those influential Republicans willing to call him out publicly and those who aren’t.

Driving their calculus is an open acknowledgment that Trump’s better-than-expected showing on Election Day ensures that he will remain the Republican Party’s most powerful voice for years to come even if he loses.

Each individual claim of irregularities in handling the mountain of mail-in ballots currently being counted will need to be examined closely by observers from both parties. But at this point, the stream of questions and accusations arising in nearly every battleground state has turned into a tsunami. How does anyone expect the nation’s confidence in the outcome of this process to remain intact? Ed Morrissey already pointed out how a variety of technical issues and, frankly, administrative incompetence in several states turned this mail-in voting fiasco into a disaster. But I think it runs deeper than that.

We were already becoming increasingly aware that the opportunity for voter fraud was more common than the mainstream media will ever admit, even if we don’t know precisely how much is going on. Dead people were found voting in New York City and Florida after early voting began, and that’s just the ones that were caught. Yet those are outside, criminal actors and we have ways of at least attempting to detect them and prosecuting the guilty parties.

What’s become far more of a concern is the way we handle ballots and the process of people casting their votes, be it in person on election day, at early voting polling stations, or, most importantly, through mail-in ballots. I think it’s high time we took a fresh look at the very real human beings involved in ensuring this critical task is completed honestly and efficiently. It’s long been a running joke in political punditry that our polling places are generally staffed by “blue-haired ladies” who might not be the most technically savvy people to assist voters with modern electronic voting devices. But the reality is that every stage of the voting process relies heavily on an army of fallible and potentially even corruptible human beings, many of whom are unpaid volunteers. I’m sure many are there because of a sense of public duty and a desire to serve. But others may not be.

When the vast majority of voting is done in person, whether it be through older “lever” machines or the newer optical scanners, confidence in the integrity of the system can remain fairly high. As long as you are the person showing up to fill in the ovals and blanks on a ballot and you feed it into the machine yourself, the chances for malicious interference appear to be minimal if the machinery is functioning properly. If there are any questions as to how your ballot is filled out, they can be directly addressed at that time with you partaking in the process. And in previous elections, the number of absentee or mail-in ballots was generally too low to tip the outcome of all but the closest of races.

This year has obviously been different. Every one of those paper ballots that were either sent through the mail or dropped off in a collection bin has to eventually arrive at a Board of Elections center. At that point, a human being has to open the envelope, remove the ballot and inspect it for processing. We’ve watched videos of workers with felt pens in hand, marking various things on ballots before either accepting or rejecting them. Sometimes that’s part of the normal, required process. But what if someone is “filling in the blanks” themselves? In other places, we didn’t even get to observe the process because people were taping pizza boxes to the windows so the processing could take place hidden away from the prying eyes of the public.

I’m sorry, but after seeing all of this malarkey unfolding before our eyes, how solid should anyone’s confidence be that the workers and volunteers carrying out this critical duty haven’t been infiltrated by bad actors that are looking to nudge the results in a razor-close race in their preferred direction? Yes, most states allow for “poll watchers” from each party to monitor the activity, but one person with two good eyes can’t be everywhere at once.

With all of this in mind, I’m fairly sure the process itself may turn out to be the biggest loser of the 2020 election and we should be able to fix this. First of all, massive mail-in voting should not become the new normal until there is a more automated and transparent way to handle paper ballots developed. And how difficult would it be to have live video and audio recordings made at each ballot-counting center and available for review during potential court challenges after the race is finished? We live in an era where half the country has Ring video surveillance on their porches. It couldn’t be that much of a hurdle to overcome. Other possibilities abound. But something definitely needs to change, no matter what approach we settle on.

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