Did you know that much of the stress, agitation and uncertainty about the election result in the United States over the past two days did not have to happen?
That the drawn-out ballot counts we saw and are seeing in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania do not owe to the races being particularly close in those states, which they were not, but to artificially produced bottlenecks?
The long counts are another kind of voter suppression, the product of rules imposed in those states by Republican-controlled legislatures that in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania allowed for no early processing of the mail-in vote – despite the pandemic – and in Michigan allowed for only one day of early processing.
The sense of there being a dynamic in these races in which Biden “came from behind” is artificial, the result of vote tallies from densely and highly populated, disproportionately Democratic areas – ie, cities – taking longer.
Everyone saw this problem coming. They also saw how Trump would attempt to take advantage of the uncertainty by stealing the election, which he is, although the effort, as historically dangerous and destructive as it is, does not look particularly brilliant.
Elections officials from both parties in the states in question pleaded with the Republican legislatures for more time to process votes early, as they do in other states with Republican-controlled legislatures such as Ohio, Florida and yes, Arizona, where the race happens to have been truly close.
The Wisconsin race looks like the sides could be separated by as little as one point, but that’s not unusual for Wisconsin. Biden appears to have won Michigan by more than two points – not a razor margin – and the same appears to be the case in Pennsylvania, where Biden appears to be doubling Trump’s 2016 margin of victory in the state at least, maybe tripling it, although obviously we’re awaiting the final tally.
A couple weeks ago the Guardian asked Tom Ridge, a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania who is a strong Trump critic and democracy advocate, about why local election officials in Pennsylvania, who are nonpartisan public servants doing hard work for not much compensation under intense pressure, were not given more time beforehand to process the ballot.
Ridge blamed partisan poison leading to a failure in negotiations between the Democratic governor and Republican legislature to set new rules.
“I had hoped that both the Republican legislature and the Democrat governor could put aside their differences and at least, at the very minimum, let these local election officials who by the way are both Republican and Democrat, begin the pre-canvassing before election day, with a clean bill,” Ridge said, continuing:
There is no inherent political advantage one, to absentee voting – this is not one party or the other doesn’t have an advantage
There’s no reason for the governor and the legislature not to enable local officials to begin the simple act of processing, not even counting but processing those ballots, to verify and validate signatures.
If they were interested in the legitimacy of an outcome, and I know both are, there’s no reason whatsoever that they can’t begin the processing.
And it’s a political stalemate in my mind unworthy of Pennsylvania voters.
The political environment is toxic, and certainly the president has contributed to that.
But on Wednesday the Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania House had the temerity to blame Democrats for the vote- counting backlog:
The replies to the tweet are pretty rich – and be warned that many of them are NSFW.