Democrats Fight to Count All the Votes

A lot has happened in the midterm elections since the networks shut down their live coverage. It’s time for an update.

Senate

The count now stands at Republicans 51 seats and Democrats 46. That leaves three races undecided. Yesterday Democrat Kyrsten Sinema took the lead over Republican Martha McSally. There could be a lot of votes left to count.

The Arizona Republic estimates that more than 600,000 votes have yet to be counted statewide — including 90,000 in blue-leaning Pima County and 472,000 (!) in Maricopa County (the Phoenix area). Maricopa has some very blue corners and some very red corners, so without knowing where the outstanding ballots are coming from, this is a totally wide-open race.

The Florida senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott has qualified for a recount under state law, with the latest numbers showing a 15,000 vote lead (.22 percent) for Scott. Last night the governor held a news conference in which he announced that he is “both filing lawsuits to stop the vote counting in South Florida and using his police powers as governor to do so.” In other words, things are about to get very ugly once again in Florida.

The special senate election in Mississippi between Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy will go to a run-off. Since this was a three-way race with former Republican Senator Chris McDaniel taking votes from Hyde-Smith, it is likely that she will win.

At this point it is very possible that, when these races are settled, Democrats could end the midterms having lost one or two senate seats.

House

As of Friday morning, Democrats have gained 30 seats in the House, with 13 races still unresolved. Democrats currently lead in five of them, but the folks at FiveThirtyEight are forecasting that they will pick up 10 additional seats. At any rate, the final tally will most likely mean that Democrats pick up 35-40 seats in the House.

Governors

While Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded the race in Florida to Republican Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night, it has tightened to the point that it also qualifies for a recount under state law. At this point Gillum trails by about 36,000 votes (or .44 percent), which he is unlikely to overcome. But reports of irregular tallies and ballot management are swirling, so it is definitely too soon for definitive conclusions. While Gillum hasn’t retracted his concession, he is demanding that all of the votes be counted.

The governors race in Georgia hasn’t been called yet. Given that Kemp currently leads by over 63,000 votes, it is not likely that Abrams will make up the difference when all of the votes are counted. But according to state law, a run off is triggered if neither candidate gains over 50 percent of the vote. Kemp’s tally currently stands at 50.3 percent. That is where this decision affecting approximately 53,000 votes in Gwinnett County comes into play.

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Georgia election officials to stop summarily tossing absentee ballots because of mismatched signatures, delivering a crucial win to voting-rights advocates — and to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — less than two weeks before Election Day…

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May…ordered Secretary of State Brian Kemp to instruct all local election officials to stop rejecting absentee ballots over the mismatched signatures. Instead, such ballots will be marked “provisional,” and the voter will be given the right to appeal the decision or confirm his or her identity.

It’s still a long shot for Abrams, but like Gillum, she is demanding that all of the votes be counted.

It is worth noting why Republicans like Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Brian Kemp go to such lengths to suppress the vote. In races as close as these, their own candidacies—as well as other Republican candidates—are on the line. That is why Democrats are fighting to ensure that every vote is counted. Next up should be a fight to restore the Voting Rights Act provisions that protect the franchise of every American.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.