Republicans decry Florida election recount
A handful of major elections across the country remained too close to call this week, with Florida undertaking a statewide recount in its U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott and Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis held narrow leads over Democrats Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum as The Week went to press. Republicans cried foul as late returns from South Florida’s heavily Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties cut into the GOP’s edge enough to trigger legally mandated machine recounts. President Trump and Scott, currently Florida governor, accused local Democratic officials, without evidence, of committing voter fraud. “I will not sit idly by,” said Scott, “while unethical liberals try to steal this election.” Florida law enforcement ordered by Scott to investigate the votes in South Florida found no evidence of fraud. Officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties say the delay was mainly caused by counting provisional and mail-in ballots.
Elsewhere, Democrats continued to add to their new majority in the House of Representatives as the final votes in close elections were tallied. With about a dozen races still undecided, the party is on track to gain between 35 and 40 seats. In Arizona, Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema won a narrow race against Martha McSally, becoming the first Democrat the state has elected to the Senate since 1988. Before the vote count was finished, Trump claimed without evidence that “electoral corruption” had given Sinema the lead. McSally congratulated Sinema on her victory, despite reportedly being under pressure from the White House to question the vote count.
What the editorials said
Republicans’ baseless claims “undermine the legitimacy of American democracy,” said The New York Times. There is no evidence of voter fraud in South Florida. Nevertheless, Trump and Scott fanned “conspiratorial flames” as the GOP lead shrank. Democrats probably won’t make up the difference in either the Senate or governor’s race. But “Republican leaders want Americans to think that the only way they can be denied power is by chicanery.” It’s a grim preview of the GOP playbook if 2020 doesn’t go Trump’s way.
“Scott went too far” with his talk of a stolen election, said WashingtonExaminer.com. But it’s undeniable that Florida officials have damaged the election’s legitimacy by turning the recount “into a lawless circus.” The Democratic elections supervisor in Broward County has broken the law repeatedly, failing to meet state-mandated deadlines for counting ballots and reporting vote tallies. And in the days after the election, that same supervisor refused to update campaigns on how many votes remained to be counted. Incompetence and lawlessness may not be fraud, “but it has a cost.”
What the columnists said
Why shouldn’t voters believe the election could be stolen? asked Ben Domenech in The Federalist. There was no justification for Broward County officials to flout Florida law by failing to provide basic information about the votes cast there. The less transparency there is, “the more Republican voters will with all good reason begin to believe the election results are being manipulated.” Republicans who dare to call out the irregularities in Florida have been “accused of attempting to disenfranchise minority Democrats,” said Noah Rothman in CommentaryMagazine.com. Branding the GOP’s concern for the law as racist is “unconscionable.”
Trump doesn’t care about the law, said Renée Graham in The Boston Globe. He’s demanded that the legally mandated recounts in Florida be stopped, with only the returns on election night deciding the race. When Sinema took the lead in Arizona, Trump called for a new election altogether. “The only fraud being committed here is by Republicans eager to win by any means necessary.”
“It is possible here for two things to be true at the same time,” said Richard Hasen in Slate.com. There’s no evidence of voter fraud in Florida, but plenty of evidence of incompetence. That doesn’t give Trump the right to depict vote totals that come in after Election Day as inherently illegitimate. Democrats typically “gain votes later in the counting process in part because big cities tend to contain lots of Democratic votes, and given their population, cities take much longer to count.” All of this bodes ill for Americans’ faith in future elections. What’s happening in Florida “should give us all chills.”
Cover illustration by Howard McWilliam.
On the cover: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.
Cover photos from AP (3) ■