Our election system is far from perfect, but it’s much better than its critics would have you believe.
Even before all the votes had been counted, President Donald Trump and others were sowing doubt about the Nov. 6 election, renewing claims of massive voter fraud. Such claims have been researched and refuted repeatedly, but the president and his supporters continue to accuse illegal immigrants and Democrats of widespread conspiracies that aim to steal wins from Republicans.
Trump used Twitter to amplify his claims, demanding that officials stop counting ballots in Florida and declare Republicans the winners in the Senate and gubernatorial races:
“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” he tweeted. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
Never mind that such a move would be illegal. Or that there was no evidence of missing ballots, nor of forged ballots, nor of ballots that “showed up out of nowhere.” Florida’s elections were messy, contentious and mismanaged, but Trump’s allegations of corruption appear to be baseless.
A few days later in an interview, Trump again claimed fraud, saying many unqualified voters cast ballots, then went to their cars to change their hats and shirts and got back in line.
“If you buy, you know, a box of cereal, if you do anything, you have a voter ID … The only thing you don’t is if you’re a voter of the United States,” Trump complained.
Kansas does have strict voter ID laws. It’s one of about 10 states – the numbers flex with court challenges – that require voters to show photo ID. It’s not clear the measure improves the integrity of elections. It does make voting more difficult for some.
Valid arguments can be made that photo ID is reasonable as states make voting more accessible by adopting same-day registration, expand advance voting and take other voter-friendly measures.
But in many states, photo ID laws are adopted in concert with steps that reduce accessibility to voting.
Georgia, for example, passed photo ID laws and a law to aggressively purge voter rolls, eliminating people who had not voted in recent elections. It also moved to close lots of polling sites. In one case, plans to close most of the polling sites in a black-majority county created so much bad publicity that officials backtracked.
In Kansas, Ford County officials moved Dodge City’s only polling site to an event center outside the city, citing the need for a site that was accessible to those with disabilities. Officials seemed not to notice that many disabilities prevent people from driving, thereby rendering the site less accessible.
Over the last decade in the Indianapolis area, Republicans reduced or eliminated early voting sites in counties with lots of Democratic voters, even while expanding advance voting in counties that tended to vote Republican, an investigation by the Indianapolis Star found.
So it goes across the country. Despite such obstacles, voters turned out in relatively big numbers Nov. 6. In Kansas, turnout was about 56 percent of registered voters, up six percentage points from 2014.
My experiences with local election officials indicate that most try to be professional and fair. On a larger scale, credible research and the record show that the system’s integrity is solid, but with some vulnerabilities, especially in the use of absentee ballots.
Like past elections, the Nov. 6 elections were, on the whole, fair and legitimate.
Not perfect, by any means. Elections are run by counties and states, and there are variances in how well they do their jobs. Florida continues to be the poster child of how to screw up an election. And laws and practices adopted by some states and individual officials raise issues of gerrymandering and voter suppression. In comparison, fraud committed by voters is a miniscule issue.
Still, the president and others persist with sleazy and false accusations against voters. With each claim, a bit more of the public’s trust in its government crumbles.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana and New York, as well as across Kansas.