Trump’s crying fraud, but elections aren’t over in a day anymore

Posted at 4:17 PM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-10 00:52:07-05

President Donald Trump and Republicans in key states are pushing the idea that Democrats are trying to steal the election from Republicans in Florida, Georgia and Arizona.

“You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia — but the Election was on Tuesday? Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!” Trump told his followers on Twitter at the beginning of a seven-message tear that repeatedly alleged election fraud.

Trump this time was taking a cue from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to maintain his lead in the Senate race there and who on Thursday accused Democrats of fraud and trying to “steal” the election.

But as CNN’s Dan Merica and Ryan Nobles reported Friday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is not actively investigating any matters related to Tuesday’s election, a department spokesperson said Friday, after it was informed by the Florida Department of State that there have been no allegations of criminal activity.

It’s not the first time the President has complained about US elections, even the one he won. In 2016, he complained before Election Day that the process was rigged. Afterward, he repeatedly alleged, also without evidence, that millions of fraudulently cast ballots had cost him the popular vote. There’s not now and there never has been any evidence of any sort of large-scale voter fraud.

Regarding Arizona, Trump seemed to argue for an entire new election after the state Republican Party challenged the way the state verifies voter signatures for mail-in ballots dropped off at polling places.

“Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!” Trump tweeted.

Republicans have seen their leads in the Florida US Senate and governor’s races dwindle as new ballots have been counted since Election Day, and in Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has pulled ahead.

The Arizona state Republican Party has gone to court to challenge how signatures for mail-in ballots are being verified, which drew a public rebuke from Sen. John McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain.

“@AZGOP I am one of those mail in ballots. I was under the impression my vote was always counted.” she said on Twitter.

Republicans’ control of the Senate is not in question, but margins are everything, and both parties want as many seats as possible.

It should be noted that with his tweets, Trump is calling to end the election without counting every vote in Florida, where his favored candidate is ahead, and seems to want an entirely new election in Arizona, where his candidate is behind.

There were many close races, particularly out West, in which votes counted after Election Day have helped Democrats. In Montana, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester was behind when Americans went to bed on Election Day, but pulled ahead and has since won his bid for re-election.

A judge sided with Scott on Friday and demanded that the Broward County elections supervisor disclose the number of ballots cast by 7 p.m. ET. She said that’ll slow down the counting even further.

In Arizona, where the vast majority of voters cast ballots by mail and which allows for mail-in voting or for voters to drop off mail-in ballots at polling places, the count has taken longer. Sinema did not pull ahead of Republican Rep. Martha McSally until Thursday.

As of this writing, only 83% of the Arizona vote is expected to be in.

In California, where absentee voting is open to all voters, mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within three days of Election Day. Officials speculated before Election Day that it would take weeks to count all the ballots. That late vote has helped Democrats pull ahead in several House races.

Recalling 2016, this vote lag is how Hillary Clinton continued to grow her popular vote lead over Trump long after it was clear on Election Day that she had lost the Electoral College and thus the election. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, wasn’t declared the winner of his race until after Thanksgiving in 2016. This year he’s retiring and his seat was won by a Democrat.

The situation in Florida is different, as officials in Broward County, which along with Palm Beach was at the center of the infamous 2000 presidential recount, continue to process ballots while the rest of the state has finished. Republicans have griped about the situation in part because the process has taken longer than state law allows and also because the vote from Broward heavily favors Democrats.

“As soon as Democrats sent their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias, to Broward County they miraculously started finding Democrat votes. Don’t worry, Florida – I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!” Trump tweeted.

Vote counting in Florida has routinely taken a long time — witness the 2000 and even the 2012 presidential elections.

Explaining why it takes so long, Broward County Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes told reporter Jeff Weinsier of Local 10 News that the length of the ballot and mail-in ballots were to blame.

“It’s a serious issue with me,” she said. “I’ve been doing this now since October 22.”

“We ran 22 sites, we ran 14 days, we ran 12 hours, we had a big vote by mail, so don’t try to turn it around to make it seem like I’m making comedy out of this,” Snipes said.

Regardless, the margins in both the Senate and governor’s races there are in machine recount territory, which means no resolution in the coming days.

Long recounts are nothing new in the US. In 2008, Sen. Norm Coleman was ahead on election night, but in a recount that lasted months, Democrat Al Franken pulled ahead of the Minnesota Republican and ultimately won.

Adding to all of this is the fact that American elections are conducted differently in each state. In some places they’re weeks-long affairs when early voting is factored in. More than 33 million Americans voted before Election Day in 2018, according to pre-election data given to CNN by the data research firm Catalist.

Twenty-two states allow for mail-in voting and three of those — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — conduct all of their voting by mail. As more states move to that model in the hopes of upping turnout, the era of the weeklong election count is just beginning.