Dump Election Night Results
Donald J. Trump messes with our elections with mind bending frequency. On September 2, he told North Carolinians they should mail in a ballot and vote on election day, to test the system. (One more crime Mr. Trump tells people they ought to commit!)
Earlier, he was slamming the USPS, repeatedly … until he wasn’t, when he decided poll workers will count the ballots wrong. Etc., ad nauseum.
Never mind the fact that evidence about mail-in voter fraud does not exist. Sure, people can identify a few cases. How many? I don’t know, but I know dividing the number of convictions by the number of votes over any period will give me a number shown in scientific notation. (That means too many zeroes!)
Mr. Trump advocates poorly for himself. I think, when the chaff gets tossed, one can argue that ballot counters, if they have reported results while they are counting ballots, can mess with the count. Can that happen? Sure, and if it never had “Landslide Lyndon” aka Lyndon Baines Johnson would have been a washed-up politician in January 1949.
Can what happened in South Texas in November 1948 happen today? Hard to imagine. That said, who cares, for Mr. Trump’s noise destroys our system as much as a bad count might. Sowing doubt leaves too many people questioning the veracity of whatever happens. For them, effectively, someone cheated! When that percentage of people reaches well into the double digits, you can start measuring our democracy’s lifespan.
Can we stop this process? Maybe! Mr. Trump talks frequently about needing an outcome by bedtime on November 3. Anything less, he suggests, allows for certain, rampant fraud. (Apologies, but I cannot match Mr. Trump’s more colorful word choices, to say nothing about his spelling, screaming UPPER CASE usage, and general odiousness.)
Tradition and economics give us outcomes on election night. We go to bed knowing who we chose because, for the better part of the last 100 years, someone had the ability to share that information with us. We’ve gotten used to it. And we like it! (We, collectively, for tens of millions of people got to bed unhappy every four years.)
As for economics, election night viewership offers the television networks lots of advertising revenue. Big bucks, on top of the gully-washers of cash our media enterprises collect during an election season.
What if we checked our neediness and got the purveyor class to stand down? No results until the ballots get counted! What if we said, together: Democracy matters. We. Can Wait.
A cursory review of state laws – yes, the states and state-like jurisdictions run our presidential elections, each with different laws and systems – evidences no mandate that elections officials share partial results. And we have a decades old precedent for withholding results: informally, the networks wait until polls in California close, to avoid disenfranchising voters in the Pacific Time Zone. (Does anyone wait for Alaska or Hawaii? No!)
Holding the results, per a plan developed during the next two months, takes the fraud argument away from the candidate who leads after in person ballots get counted on November 3, 2020. It does more, though. Much more!
First, we expect to see more paper ballots, dropped off or mailed in, than ever before. That trend will continue, as the number of voters using alternative opportunities has been growing steadily. Getting rid of election evening reports in 2020 will set the stage for getting rid of what will become an increasingly unreliable set of election evening reports.
Second, by reducing the import of election evening reporting we will encourage non-traditional voting. (Why worry about voting at the school or church, if my vote gets counted with every other vote, cast on election day or two or three weeks earlier.) More paper ballots increases ballot security. We reduce the need for volunteers, most of whom are elderly and at risk should we have another health crisis.
People more knowledgeable than I am have debunked Mr. Trump’s mail in ballot security nonsense. I won’t waste reader time or space here. For years and years, non-traditional voting has worked well … well enough, in fact, for our leader to rely on it when he votes.
Why not make a real and, in fact, very minor sacrifice for American democracy. Figure out how to lock up partial results until we have a complete count. And avoid letting what will surely be a very partial count on November 3 control how we live our lives in November 2020.
P.S. For a deeper dive, read Fair Elections During a Crisis: Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech to Advance the Legitimacy of, and the Public’s Confidence in, the November 2020 U.S. Elections. The committee which put forward this set of recommendations includes the smartest people in the country about elections.