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Election protocol: Verify, then trust

During nuclear arms negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Cold War era of the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan used a Russian proverb which, translated into English, said “trust, but verify.”

With the numerous court challenges resulting from the recent presidential election, that phrase is relevant today, especially when we invert the order: First, we need to “verify” to identify who’s voting before we can “trust” the outcome of the election.

The confusion in this close election centers on the fact that every state constitution has different language regarding the right to vote, the great freedom of any democracy.

One would think that identifying who is voting should be mandatory in every state. After the Republican wave in the 2010 election saw conservative majorities sweep governorships and state legislatures, more than a dozen states, including Wisconsin, Florida and Texas, passed legislation to tighten voter ID laws. Some policies required citizens to show a birth certificate or passport in order to register to vote. Not so in Democratic-led blue states which have opposed voter restrictions, including the ID laws.

Florida is a state that learned from its past mistakes. It was embarrassed during the infamous punch card election of 2000, when paper ballots in Palm Beach County had to be individually examined for their punctured, hanging chads.

Florida retooled its election process, replacing paper ballots with machine counting. The result was that on Nov. 3, Florida’s election process was near-perfect.

Voting, which once took days for counties to register in previous elections, was counted quickly, thanks in large part that 9 million of the 11 million votes which were cast were counted early. Another big advantage that Florida has over states like Pennsylvania is that it allowed its early mail-in ballots to be tabulated starting three weeks before Election Day. Pennsylvania had to wait until election Tuesday before it began counting its mail-in votes.

Florida’s push to get more voters to cast ballots early or by mail also meant lines on Election Day were short. With the coronavirus pandemic, Florida’s senior voters who had opted for a mail-in ballot were relieved not to have to stand in line or enter a crowded public building.

Florida was the first large swing state to register its election results. Not long after its polls closed, Trump was declared the winner - eventually taking the state by more than 370,000 votes - a result which stunned major media, election pundits and pollsters.

Last Thursday, Trump’s legal team held a news conference in Washington to update their ongoing legal challenges related to the election. After rebuking the press for failing to report on a legitimate story, Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis said that their objective is to make sure “to preserve and protect election integrity.”

Sidney Powell, another member of the Trump legal team, said that a flurry of lawsuits are imminent against election officials who certify the results of the election that she believes are fraudulent.

Regarding the legal challenges in key battleground states, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s close Republican allies, urged people to let the process play out in the hotly contested battleground states. He said that under Article II of the Constitution, presidential electors are done by the legislatures and the framework they create.

DeSantis said if there’s departure from that - if they’re not following law or if they’re ignoring the law - then every option should be exhausted to make sure that the vote counting was fair.

Republican-led Florida has proved that modernizing the voter-registration process and counting early votes can produce results and avoid the recount suspicions and endless court challenges that we’re seeing today.

Questions about election officials in Democratically run precincts denying poll watchers access to view the vote counting; and witnesses making sworn affidavits that they saw votes being delivered in the dark of night well after polls had closed, just raises suspicions about election fraud and should be investigated.

The 73 million people who voted for Trump need to be assured that the results of the 2020 race are clean and above board.

When that many people have any doubts about the election process and the media fails to follow up and investigate, democracy is undermined.

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com