The League of Women Voters and Common Cause have warned Florida Governor and Senator-elect Rick Scott that if he keeps hovering over the recount of the state’s ballots for governor and senator—he has already called in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate possible fraud—they’ll sue him for politicizing the recount. He should see them and raise them by calling in the FBI to investigate the Broward County Board of Elections. The senatorial race is a federal election, after all, and the Voting Rights Act protects its fairness, especially down in the Deep South. So it cries out for federal oversight.
It’s hard to think of a more suspect outfit than the Broward County Elections Board, a starring buffoon in the 2000 Bush v. Gore hanging-chad farce. The board got a new chief after that debacle, but Governor Jeb Bush had to fire her in 2003, once the cronies she’d hired made a shambles of the 2002 balloting by opening polls late and closing them early. Bush’s next appointment, current incumbent Brenda Snipes—like her predecessor a black woman Democrat, picked to defuse a political explosion on the firing of the only other black woman Democratic county official—has proved little better. Her board didn’t deliver 58,000 absentee ballots in the 2004 election, and it “lost” 1,000 ballots in the 2012 election. Snipes broke the law in the 2016 election by posting results before the legal time, by destroying ballots before the law allowed, and by leaving a voter amendment off some ballots. In the current election, she has consistently failed to give updates on the number of uncounted ballots, as the law demands. One of her deputies says that a now-empty ballot box found in a closet in a school-auditorium polling place was just left behind, pending collection. “There’s no way I could pick up everything in two days,” the overburdened official avers. Little wonder that defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has recanted his concession to Ron DeSantis. In Florida, why not keep on rolling the dice?
Our democracy’s legitimacy rests on the honesty and trustworthiness of our voting process, which has grown as suspect as the days when loyal partisans would grow beards before election day to vote with them first in their full luxuriance, then with a trim to Vandyke neatness, next with the chin whiskers shaved off, then with the moustache gone, and finally with the mutton chops erased. Barbers were indispensable to the vote-and-vote-again process. Nowadays, we don’t purge voter rolls of the dead or relocated, we don’t require proof of eligibility through government-issued ID cards, our voting-machine technology is amateurish and easily hacked even when it does work, and our election officials are suspect. This year’s official, taxpayer-funded New York State voter guide, to take one example, told voters, surely illegally, how to vote on the three ballot initiatives, while interpreters roamed the polling places to help prospective voters, who had supposedly demonstrated English proficiency as a condition of citizenship.
Democrats believe President Trump illegitimate because he failed to win the popular vote while winning the Electoral College vote, in accord with the Constitution. Republicans are understandably suspicious of Democratic electoral victories in Chicago or St. Louis or Broward County because of old-fashioned, bald-faced fraud. Surely finding and fixing what’s broken here should be Priority One for our politics. The secret ballot is a great democratic advance, as long as you can trust it. Once you can’t, those responsible should go to jail.
Myron Magnet, City Journal’s Editor-at-Large, is a National Humanities Medal laureate. Encounter Books will publish his Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution in May.
Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images