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Opinion: Count every legal ballot
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Hall County elections officials tabulate results Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, after the polls close. - photo by Scott Rogers

Enough already with the willful undermining of the nation’s election process. Please just stop.

For the past several days, President Donald Trump has fabricated one issue after another related to the counting of votes, intentionally promoting a misinformation campaign intended to make the American people distrust a system of electing public officials that has served them well, and he has generally proven he has no understanding of how the election process works.

It needs to come to an end.

Social and traditional media are ablaze with conspiracy theories, as well as complaints of censorship as platforms try to debunk the many allegations that have been proven to be without merit. Supporters of the president rally behind him by repeating accusations for which there is no evidence. Charges are being made. Lawsuits are being filed. And no one is presenting any evidence to suggest that any of the noise being made has merit. 

Trump Friday afternoon tweeted “Where are the missing military ballots in Georgia? What happened to them?” Hall County had reported earlier that day it has 55 military or overseas ballots outstanding among 368 total outstanding ballots, also including provisional ballots and absentee ballots that needed to be verified.

Twelve hours previously, he tweeted “So now the Democrats are working to gain control of the U.S. Senate through their actions on John James, David Perdue, and more.” He presented no evidence of how the race between Perdue and John Ossoff was being altered following the election. The race appeared headed to a runoff as of Friday afternoon.

Several tweets were labeled by Twitter as having disputed or misleading information about an election or other civic process but could still be viewed. One of those tweets was this one: “I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST. The OBSERVERS were not allowed, in any way, shape, or form, to do their job and therefore, votes accepted during this period must be determined to be ILLEGAL VOTES. U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”

In Hall County, nine people observed the tabulation process and the elections director said all one had to do to observe was “simply show up.” A review panel including at least one Republican and one Democrat also looked over questionable ballots.

Underlying most of the complaints is a basic misunderstanding of the electoral process that you would not think could exist within an administration that has served in the highest office in the land for the past four years.

No, there is no uniformity in election laws across the nation. Each state is responsible for that process, and they have their own rules. It is not a federal undertaking.

Yes, there are different deadlines in different states. Some count absentee ballots early. Some, like Georgia, are prohibited from counting them until the polls have closed. Some have one deadline by which such ballots must be received; others have a different deadline.

Simply assuming that states are violating the law because you do not take the time to understand the process is a duplicitous approach to avoiding an outcome you don’t want to accept.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

We all want the same thing: every legal vote counted. All Americans should oppose any effort that prohibits the counting of a ballot that was appropriately cast by a legitimate voter. It should not be an arguable position, and yet somehow it has become such.

As hard as it may be for the president to accept, there are issues at play here that are more important than him, or any other political candidate. As a democratic republic, we are dependent upon the casting and counting of votes as the foundation upon which rests our government, and by extension our nation. To facetiously attempt to tear that system down without clear and obvious proof of wrongdoing, just to assure the outcome you want, cannot be justified.

To his credit, the president gave us all fair warning this was going to happen. He complained for weeks prior to the election about how the system was rigged against him, how someone was going to steal the election from him, about how he may decide just not to accept the results of the balloting and may look to the Supreme Court to decide the issue in his favor..

It’s time for the nonsense to stop.

If the president has proof of wrongdoing beyond his highly prejudiced personal opinion that something is amiss, he needs to show it to the American public. If not, he should quit fanning the flames of outrage.

If, as the president has suggested, the vote tally has been skewed by Democrats at the state level, then why haven’t more Democrats won election to the U.S. Senate, which the party desperately wants to control? Why hasn’t the Democratic advantage in the U.S. House grown much larger than it is? How have Republicans held control of so many state legislatures?

The president’s argument suggests the issue of when and how and whether to count certain ballots only involves the office for which he is running. That is not the case. Every ballot affects every candidate listed on it. Where is the bias toward all those other candidates?

How can you blame the vote count in Georgia on Democratic state officials, when both the governor and the secretary of state, who is responsible for holding elections in the state, are Republicans?

There is a very detailed and meticulous procedure in place for handling of absentee ballots. They have to be opened a certain way, reviewed by multiple people, signatures confirmed, votes counted and recorded in a specific fashion. Questionable ballots are subject to review; in some cases voters have to be given an opportunity to confirm information or “cure” a problem. 

It all takes time, which is why states traditionally cannot make vote tallies “official” until several days after the actual Election Day. This year is different only in that the volume is dramatically higher and the voting is so close that every step of the process is under a microscope.

In Georgia, the law allows the Secretary of State 17 days after an election is held to certify its results as final.

We are not naïve enough to believe that every election office across the land has carried out a perfect election. Far from it. There are always problems; there always will be problems. But there is nothing to suggest a systemic effort to change the outcome of the presidential balloting, and until someone can bring forward evidence to show there is, the spread of misinformation and the outright dishonesty in addressing the electoral process with broad, sweeping allegations demeans the office of the presidency and does a disservice to the people of the nation.

It has to end.