This Election Will Not End Tomorrow
It’s pretty clear that no one really has a good idea of what will the results will be in tomorrow’s elections. We do know that Democrats will easily win the majority of the votes cast for House seats around the country but, because of Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression, they may not actually win control of that chamber. Muddying the waters additionally is the fact that turnout looks to be approaching presidential year levels which, along with a changing and motivated electorate, means that the pollsters probably are not able to precisely model the makeup of the electorate the way they have in the past. traditionally, though, additional voters have favored Democrats but there is nothing traditional about our elections anymore. All of which means that every vote tomorrow will count.
But we also know the election will not really end tomorrow. Mail-in only elections in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and parts of California mean that it will take weeks to actually determine winners in elections in that state. If the polls are to be believed, even in light of the caveat above, there will be a number of races that will require counting absentee ballots as well as those which will require a recount. And, in those cases, we can expect there will be an enormous legal and political battle over what votes should be cast aside. That will be especially true if the balance of power in the House or the Senate requires those counts in one particular election. But it will also be true even if that balance of power is already clear. Democrats will carry on legal fights over voter suppression and the cavalier rejection of absentee ballots. Republicans will fight for every seat available because, the closer the election, the greater their cries about mythical voter fraud will be. Trump will only amplify that message in order to discredit any Democratic opposition and feed his base.
Most of these counts will be done by partisan election boards, some of which have already been implicated in extreme voter suppression, in Texas and Kansas, for example. The counts are overseen by the Secretaries of State and two of them, Kris Kobach in Kansas and Brian Kemp in Georgia, have a long history of past and current voter suppression and are also running for governor. Obviously, their existing conflict of interest is already extraordinary and will become even more so if there are disputes in those elections. Any disputes will eventually make their way up to state Supreme Courts, many of whom may be in disputed elections of their own. Others have been hand-picked by GOP governors and legislatures while a select few are or have been targeted for impeachment by GOP-controlled legislatures. Lastly, the final arbiter for all of these disputes will be the US Supreme Court which has now been successfully packed with conservatives who are fare more interested in expanding corporate rights than in protecting voting rights. In other words, the dysfunction of American democracy will be on full display.
Those of use who lived through the aftermath of the 2000 recount know just how ugly this can get. While the “Brooks Brothers Riot” clearly illustrated just how far Republicans will go to ensure that every vote is not counted, it is easy to forget how important Secretary of State Katherine Harris was to halting the recount and declaring Bush the victor, setting up the Supreme Court to finally declare him the “winner” in a decision so weak and ungrounded that it pleaded with future courts not to use it as precedent. On the other hand, a real precedent to remember is how Norm Coleman contested his election loss to Al Franken in 2009. Coleman dragged out his legal challenges to Franken’s election for nearly seven months before he was forced to concede. That delay kept Senate Democrats from having a filibuster-proof majority for over five months.
We can expect all of this and more in the wake of tomorrow’s election and we shall probably find out more than we want to know about the Republican party’s commitment to democracy and how far they are willing to go to ensure not every vote is counted. As opposed to 2000 and 2009, the results of this election may be contested in races all across the country, requiring enormous resources to resolve them. Because of that, Democrats need to be prepared to stay motivated and engaged even after tomorrow.
More importantly, it highlights how important every vote will be. Every additional Democratic vote makes it that much harder for Republicans to contest that election. Your vote may not be the one to provide the margin of victory to a Democrat but it may be one of the ones that prevent a recount from being called. And that may be almost as important this year.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on November 5, 2018.