Two years ago, after the unusual outcome of the Kentucky gubernatorial election (where Democratic candidate Jack Conway, who had been leading in the polls against Republican contender Matt Bevin, lost to Bevin by nine points), I observed that the Kentucky Democratic Party should at least try to verify the outcome of the election via a hand-count of the ballots. Back then, I noted:
I don’t gainsay the idea that the outcome of the Kentucky gubernatorial election could indeed be on the level. After all, in previous statewide elections, Kentucky voters have given the thumbs-up to an unapologetic global warming denier and a demented doctor who believes that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional, so it’s not as though the Bluegrass State is averse to wingnuttery. However, considering the anomalous and peculiar nature of this election result, and considering the implications for economically vulnerable Kentucky residents, shouldn’t Kentucky Democrats have requested a hand-counted verification of the outcome of the gubernatorial race? It’s odd to quote Ronald Reagan in this context, but what’s wrong with following the advice of the 40th President: “Trust but verify”? What’s wrong with making sure nothing funky happened on November 3?
It’s hard to understand why Kentucky Democrats aren’t pushing to have the outcome of this race verified via a hand-count of all the ballots. Heck, Kentucky Republicans should also push for a verification of this outcome, if for no other reason than to remove the asterisk next to Bevin’s name in the history books.
Even before Russia interfered with our presidential election, the logic of verifying a seemingly anomalous result in an election was self-evident. After the events of November 2016, validating the outcome of an election is of paramount importance. Do Democrats recognize this reality?
It’s unlikely. In fact, if Democrat Jon Ossoff, leading in some polls heading into tomorrow’s high-profile race to fill Georgia’s vacant Sixth Congressional District seat, loses to Republican Karen Handel, expect Democrats, fearful of being attacked as conspiracy theorists and whining losers, to raise zero questions about whether the result was legitimate. (Of course, if Ossoff wins, Republicans will immediately yell “voter fraud!”)
Last week, in a frightening report, Politico raised the prospect of tomorrow’s election being compromised. The article notes that there was a failed effort to compel Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, to conduct the election on paper ballots. If Ossoff loses an election many expect him to win, will Democrats–from DNC Chair Tom Perez on down–become vocal about the need to finally move away from unverifiable, hackable voting systems and move to hand-counted paper ballots–generally considered the only way to ensure that an election has not been compromised? Don’t hold your breath; Democratic anxiety about being accused of paranoia by right-wing (and some mainstream) media entities may prevent such an outcome from happening.
As Mike Males noted last week, Democrats also have a moral obligation to fight aggressively against Republican voter-suppression efforts; Handel herself led such efforts during her tenure as Georgia’s Secretary of State. Voter suppression is one of the many forces that gave the right its power; recall the late right-wing activist Paul Weyrich’s de facto endorsement of voter suppression in 1980. Weyrich’s words should galvanize Democrats to fight as hard as possible against any effort to restrict the right to vote–and any effort to prevent voting results from being verified for accuracy.
If Ossoff loses, the fact that he was competitive in a district that has been in Republican hands for nearly four decades will be seen in some quarters as a moral victory. The problem is, a moral victory is still a loss–and if such a loss occurs under questionable circumstances, that’s a problem for our democracy.