The Corner

Elections

Florida’s Democracy Dies in Darkness

I keep seeing national journalists insisting that Florida must “count every vote!”  And, frankly, I’m completely perplexed as to why, given that nobody is suggesting that the vote-counting should be halted. On the contrary: Rick Scott is suing Broward and Palm Beach counties not because he wants them to start trashing good ballots, but because they are failing to release the information that they are obliged to release under Florida law. Scott’s demand is for transparency, not for closure, and, in the case of Broward, it’s being made against a county that is notoriously incompetent and a commissioner who has already been found in violation of state and federal law, who has a habit of destroying ballots, and who is already under state supervision. The Washington Post says that “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Aren’t we all supposed to agree?

Florida election law requires that:

(b) The canvassing board shall report all early voting and all tabulated vote-by-mail results to the Department of State within 30 minutes after the polls close. Thereafter, the canvassing board shall report, with the exception of provisional ballot results, updated precinct election results to the department at least every 45 minutes until all results are completely reported. The supervisor of elections shall notify the department immediately of any circumstances that do not permit periodic updates as required. Results shall be submitted in a format prescribed by the department

Neither Palm Beach County nor Broward County has followed these rules, which has led to widespread confusion and mistrust as the vote totals continue to be updated without anyone knowing the context, sources, or scope. That is the problem here — not some imaginary injunction to stop counting votes.

Disappointing as it must be to those who hope dearly to become heroes — hello, Paul Krugman — this isn’t Jim Crow and it isn’t even Bush v. Gore. Rather, it’s good old-fashioned incompetence, with some law-breaking thrown in for good measure. And the bad guy? I’m sorry to inform you that it isn’t Rick Scott, but the people he’s insisting are made to follow the rules.

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