GUEST VIEW: Disrespecting the vote and the voters

The following editorial was written by the Editorial Board at Newsday:

(TNS) Here’s the most important thing to understand about the vote counts and recounts taking place in Georgia and Florida: This is how the process plays out. It’s normal, and necessary. It’s how we do things in America.

One of our democracy’s core principles is that every vote must be counted. That becomes fraught when elections are taut, and every vote must be tallied to determine a winner. That the counting is proceeding slowly or that a recount must be done doesn’t mean something nefarious is going on.

Assertions of voter fraud in Florida in particular, coming mostly from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, so far have no basis in fact. Such claims damage the nation’s trust in the electoral process. Nor was it helpful that Florida’s state Democratic Party compared GOP Gov. Rick Scott, vying for a Senate seat, to a “dictator.” One judge involved in warring post-election lawsuits rightly warned both sides to “ramp down the rhetoric.” At one point, Trump tweeted that only the election-night count matters, which would produce GOP wins in races for senator and governor, but also disenfranchise anyone whose absentee ballot arrived late but legally — like thousands of military members serving overseas.

There is a lesson to be learned from the Senate race in Arizona, where it took a long time to count paper ballots mailed in by three-quarters of state voters. With no evidence, Trump and the Republican National Committee cited “corruption” as Democrat Kyrsten Sinema slowly overtook Republican Martha McSally. The Arizona GOP mostly did not criticize the process and McSally conceded to Sinema when the result was clear. That’s how it ought to be.

These controversies are unfolding as voters in many parts of the country have been approving referendums that make voting and registering to vote easier, as it should be. This, as Georgia and Kansas tried to suppress voting, particularly among poorer and minority voters. That’s despicable.

New York has its own problems. In New York City, 19th-century laws on ballot design turned what could have been a one-page ballot into two pages, which led to confusion in polling places and breakdowns of some overworked scanners.

And voting here is too difficult. Reform is overdue, but we must be smart about the changes we make. Early voting, even if it’s just one weekend day, must be adopted. Ditto no-excuse absentee voting, and those mail-in ballots should be the same as election-day ballots so they can be fed into scanners for easy election-night tallying. Voting reform should be top of the agenda for the new State Legislature in January.

Another problem is board of election incompetence, from Broward County to New York. These patronage pits must be professionalized. Poll workers must be better-trained and more should be hired, and more machines made available when high turnouts are expected. There is no excuse for voters receiving bad advice, enduring long lines, and sometimes leaving without casting a ballot.

Voting is our precious right. We should do whatever we can to respect, protect and expand it.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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