BIDLACK | Even now, votes are still being tallied — and for good reason

Author: Hal Bidlack - November 16, 2018 - Updated: November 15, 2018

Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

I really like our state. Colorado has, again and again, shown itself to be a national leader in good things and a bellwether in political trends. One area I hope the rest of the nation can learn from us is in how to behave after elections. Coloradans, for the most part, have not embraced the sour winds emanating from the White House regarding the outcomes of various contests, as well as the ongoing vote counting, and that’s important.

A recent story in Colorado Politics highlights the relative dignity that our lovely state embraces. Ballots are still being counted (more on that in a moment) and several races are very, very close. Yet you don’t hear the yelping of voter fraud, shenanigans, and stolen elections, or at least not nearly as much as you do elsewhere (cough… Florida…cough…Georgia…cough…).

Nationally, there are quite a few races in which ballots are still being tallied. And that, my friends, is normal. The only reason you are hearing such vile things about ballots still being counted is because Mr. Trump and his supporters have decided, after declaring the media the enemy of the people, that the voting process itself has somehow become un-American. That suggestion is as dangerous as it is vile.

So why are votes still being counted? Because there are lots and lots of different types of votes that come in to the voting centers, such as county clerks. Votes cast before the election, in our vote-by-mail state, can usually (but not always) be counted before election day. Those results, therefore, are often the first returns you see reported. But there are many other types of voters whose ballots may arrive a good bit later. For example, active duty military members from Colorado can send their ballots back by mail, and they are counted if they arrive at the appropriate county elections office no later than the close of business on the 8thday after election day. Surely no one would argue that troops overseas should not have their vote counted, even if it arrives a week after election day?

In addition to military folks, there are absentee ballots that must be counted, and perhaps most importantly in the Florida and Georgia races, provisional ballots need to be reviewed. You may recall that the gent running for governor in Georgia is also that state’s official who oversees elections. That man, Brian Kemp, removed 340,000 voters from the registered voter list, in the opinion of many illegally, while refusing to recuse himself from overseeing his own election. His argument was that any such voter could cast a provisional ballot – one which would be counted if the “error” in their registration was fixed – so there was no harm, no foul. Right…

So now, as those ballots are being counted, we have a president declaring that only the votes in on election night should count. This is as un-American as it is fraudulent, but Mr. Trump’s core supporters are swallowing this hook, line, and sinker.

So why don’t we hear about overseas military ballots, absentee and provisional voters more often? Why aren’t there screaming matches every election cycle? Well, that’s because most elections are not that close. Put simply, the number of outstanding ballots to be counted is often less than the difference in vote totals between the candidates on election night. Using myself as a painful example, when I ran for Congress in 2008, Mr. Lamborn got many, many thousands more votes than I did. So even if I found, say, a stack of 25,000 uncounted ballots in a Dem-leaning part of CD-5, if the difference between Mr. Lamborn and myself was, say, 50,000 (or 70,000, which it really was), those 25,000 “missing” votes could not change the results of the election. And that is the case most of the time, with outstanding uncounted ballots usually fewer in number than the gap between the candidates.

But of course, in many races this year, that is not the case. So surely, anyone who loves our great nation would want every properly cast ballot to be counted, right? Aren’t there some issues bigger than our partisan preferences?

When the president and others toss around reckless and unfounded claims that an election is a fraud, great damage is done. We know the president has tried to undercut Americans’ faith in a free and open press. This new assault on the actual voting process – the single most important thing we do as a nation – is deeply and appallingly worrisome. I deeply hope the rest of the nation can learn from Colorado’s example, but with Mr. Trump in the White House, I’m not too optimistic. And that’s a real shame.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.