This is the unthinkable truth behind Republicans' efforts to halt the Florida recount

Republicans are in court simply trying to stop the count.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (Wikimedia Commons)

The number of lawsuits in Florida is almost as difficult to count as the remaining ballots, but they can all be summed up simply enough: Democrats want every vote to count, Republicans don’t. And as Democrats fight to have every voice heard, Republican shouting about voter fraud without evidence serves a double purpose—it not only provides an excuse for trying to halt the count now, it sets up the justification for the Republicans’ ultimate move in the Senate race later. Because no matter how the vote turns out, they can still “win.”

The latest lawsuit involves mailed-in ballots. Florida is one of those states where mail-in ballots have a signature that must match a signature on file with election officials. Trying to validate these signatures is by far the slowest and most difficult part of counting these ballots. Also, what does it mean to “match”? If a mail-in ballot was prepared in less than idea conditions and the signature is less than perfect is it invalid? What if the on file document was made hastily and it doesn’t match the voter’s usual effort? What if, as with most people, the voter simply doesn’t have single, consistent signature that’s the same day after day, year after year? And how close do two side by side scrawls have to be to “match” in the first place?

As TPM reports Democrats are in court trying to see that all possible mail-in ballots are counted even if that means ignoring the signature. Republicans are in court simply trying to stop the count, even if that means perfectly valid ballots, including military ballots, are left out. And both the state’s sitting governor, Rick Scott, and Donald Trump continue to pound the idea that counting all the votes means stealing the election. Even though the state elections officials—the Republican state elections officials—say they’ve seen no evidence of fraud, both Scott and Trump have continued to press their thumbs on the scales as hard as they can. 

According to the AP, Palm Beach County is likely to miss the Thursday deadline for having all votes counted. Not because of some attempt to delay or an effort to subvert the vote, but because their creaky and inadequate equipment keeps breaking down. Running hundreds of thousands of ballots through the 11-year-old machines made them overheat, and though a mechanic is supposedly flying in, their gear simply may not be able to count the votes quickly enough to finish on time. Which could mean to tens of thousands of votes being uncounted in races where the difference is a fraction of that amount.

And as the New York Times reports, Republicans in the Senate may note care what the vote totals in Florida ultimately say because “Senator Bill Nelson may not win the election, even if he wins the election.”

The decision to seat a Senator is ultimately decided in the Senate. With Trump and Scott and other Republican officials daily hurling around the words “stolen” and “fraud” even though there’s no evidence of either, it sits the Senate up to make its own decision should the recount tip the outcome in Nelson’s favor.

If that were to happen, though, it is not unthinkable that Republicans would consider using their majority power in the Senate to refuse to seat Mr. Nelson and to give the seat to Mr. Scott instead — especially considering how he and his party have repeatedly insisted, without offering evidence, that the ballot review process has been riddled with fraud and misconduct.

It should be unthinkable … but it’s clearly not. When it comes to the governor’s race and other still undecided races, Republicans need to stop the count while they’re ahead. But in the effort to make that happen, Scott is also ideally positioned to plant the seeds that justify this taking a seat whether or not he’s earned it. Both Trump and Scott are surely hoping that the outcome of the recount will leave the Republican in the lead. But if not, they’re yelling “they’re stealing it!” loudly enough, and often enough, that they can pretend to some kind of dignity … when they steal it.

 

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Mark Sumner is the author of the nonfiction work "The Evolution of Everything" as well as several novels including "Devil's Tower."