According to a Monmouth University poll, 60% of Republican voters nationwide continue to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. This despite the Trump campaign prevailing in only one of its 64 state and federal courtroom challenges to the vote. The one success affected the result of a state senate race with only an infinitesimal effect on the presidential contest. Why do so many Republicans persist in this belief? Because a former President of the United States continues to tell them the election was stolen.
Many Democrats, until recently anyway, believed the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia was stolen from Stacey Abrams. Why did they believe so? President Biden told them it was so. So did, among others, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker.
But recently a federal district judge, appointed by President Barack Obama, found after a 21-day trial with 50 witnesses that none of Abrams’ complaints against Georgia election law and the way it was administered rose to the level of a violation of the federal Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Abrams lost that 2018 election by 59,000 votes. During the course of the trial, only a single Georgia voter in 2018 was demonstrated to have been prevented from voting in the way she wished to have voted – and that was because her nursing facility did not give her enough time at the polling place to rescind her mail-in ballot in order to vote in person.
Abrams has lost her 2022 rematch with Brian Kemp by nearly 300,000 votes. This time, unlike 2018, she conceded.
I am represented in Congress by Mike Kelly. He has been re-elected. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, he went to court to invalidate the mail-in ballots cast in good faith by more than 2 million Pennsylvania voters. Then on Jan 6, 2021, he voted not to accept Pennsylvania’s certified presidential election results. Somehow, he thinks these actions comport with his oath to support the federal Constitution.
In another part of the commonwealth, an eight-term incumbent, Dan Moul, has been re-elected to represent the 91st Legislative District. On a debate platform during the campaign, he was asked: “Do you think the 2020 election was free and fair?” In what seems a poor imitation of Pontius Pilate, Moul replied: “Who’s ever going to know?” Really? All those years in the legislature, with access to all the state hearings on the subject, and he can’t give a straight answer?
For those of us in Pennsylvania who want to keep our wits concerning our 2022 General Election and its aftermath, here’s some things to keep in mind:
By law, no voting machine is ever connected to the internet. Each ballot cast on an electronic voting machine will be supported with a verifiable paper record. At the end of voting, the machine is locked with the paper ballots inside. Chain of custody for each machine and its contents is documented. Audits of the voting are conducted.
By law, mail-in ballots cannot be processed before 7 a.m. on Election Day. Statewide, nearly one million mail-in ballots were received. The Republican-led General Assembly could have changed the law so that ballots could have at least been opened prior to counting on Election Day – as election officials across the state have implored the legislature to do. It’s as if the Republicans in our legislature wanted a delay in reporting election results. But, thanks to financial support the General Assembly did provide, and to the efforts of county officials and workers, nearly complete election results including mail-in voting, even in Philadelphia, were available to the public by the next morning.
By law, county election officials and the Pennsylvania Department of State have three weeks after Election Day to certify election results. To painstakingly do so, if necessary. The public is accustomed to having news organizations project election winners. Some so-called news organizations serve politically partisan ends. Some so-called news organizations know very well which kinds of controversies satisfy their demographic niche. Some so-called news organizations may be disappointed the Fetterman-Oz contest was not closer than it was. The Associated Press, with decades of credibility behind it, called Fetterman the winner six hours after the polls closed. Be careful whom you believe.
By law, mail-in ballots must be received inside an official envelope that is signed and correctly dated by the eligible voter who applied for the ballot. Perhaps about 1% of otherwise legal mail-in ballots will be determined to have been incorrectly dated. Many contend that a correct date written by the eligible voter is redundant to information already provided on the official envelope and superfluous to the question whether the vote should be counted.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ordered that mail-in ballots without a correct date must not be counted and segregated for possible counting later – the issue to be determined by the Court, or the federal Supreme Court. The Fetterman-Oz contest did not come down to these contested votes. But other races in the commonwealth may depend on how this issue is resolved.
Both political parties declaim that our democracy is under an existential threat. Republicans say voter fraud. Democrats say voter suppression. Both say the only way to save democracy is to vote for their party.
Since 2016, registered voters have participated in our democracy in high proportions not seen in more than a century – since the days of William Jennings Bryan. Maybe voting is actually easier than ever before. Maybe voters, told democracy is in peril, are determined to make their votes count.
Maybe we need the Carter Center to verify for us the integrity of our elections. Maybe we should be mindful of the words of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter’s opponent in the 1980 presidential election, that while democracy is no fragile flower, it still needs our cultivation. Thank you, voters – even if you did return an election denier to office.
Thank you, poll workers. Respect the process.