Oh brother, those Floridians.
Once again, the state of Florida still seems incapable of producing election results in a professional manner, some two decades after the 2000 presidential vote debacle in that state.
Over the past 24 hours, amid cries of fraud and the spread of conspiracy theories, ballots are still being counted in Broward County (the Fort Lauderdale area) as both the gubernatorial and Senate races in the Sunshine State are probably headed toward lengthy recounts as election margins are less than 0.5 percent.
What’s more, nearly two decades after the infamous “Butterfly Ballot” in Palm Beach County, the design of Tuesday’s ballot in Broward is under intense scrutiny due to irregular voting patterns in the Senate race.
However, few places in America are able to smirk at Florida’s mess, as incomprehensible problems at the polls were reported on Election Night far and wide.
Voting problems, most connected to malfunctioning voting machines, were reported in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.
In Michigan, Detroit fortified its reputation as the state’s poster child of election incompetence as voters who showed up to vote Tuesday morning at Martin Luther King Jr. High School found that there were no voting machines available to accept their ballots. The machines were locked away in a closet on the other side of the school, a storage space that election workers did not have access to.
In Arizona, a polling place failed to open because the building where it was located was foreclosed overnight and had been padlocked. In Georgia, a busy polling place offered just three voting machines, a messy mistake that was attributed to a “mix-up.”
The ongoing embarrassment of a nation incapable of carrying out a problem-free democratic election was revisited in these midterms. The obvious question: How hard can this be?
Voters told to “come back later” is entirely unacceptable. Voters forced to wait in line for four to five hours disenfranchises people with even relatively minor health issues who cannot withstand that kind of endurance test. Voters who are inaccurately told by poll workers that their name is not on the registration rolls just adds to this mess.
Just a reminder: One of the basic lessons that was supposedly learned after the Florida 2000 recount was that we should not have secretaries of state with a partisan tilt overseeing statewide elections. Numerous recommendations came forward at the time to make these state offices nonpartisan, with the officeholder free of any associations with partisan candidates or campaigns.
Yet, in Georgia, where a red-hot, tightly contested race for governor was waged in recent weeks, the Republican candidate, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, turned those post-2000 proposals on their head. In his role as the state’s chief elections officer he has been accused of tilting the scales by engaging in voter suppression methods that disenfranchised Democratic voters, and especially black Democrats.
Kemp was determined to oversee the ballot count in a controversial, still too-close-to-call gubernatorial race until Thursday, when he finally relented under public pressure and resigned his SOS post.
We are told repeatedly that the nation is engaged in a bitter partisan divide between Democratic and Republican voters but Tuesday’s midterms demonstrated just how closely matched those two tribes have become in many parts of the U.S.
The number of close elections for Senate, House and governorships was astounding. As was mentioned above, Florida has two races – for governor and Senate — that remain undecided, and Georgia has a contentious gubernatorial contest still in the works, in addition to some extraordinarily tight outcomes for the House.
What’s more, the all-important Arizona Senate race remains a tossup with the Democratic candidate now leading by a 49.1-48.6 percent margin, with more than 400,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted.
In addition, top-of-the-ticket races that were decided by less than 5 percentage points – much less in some cases — included those in Wisconsin, Nevada, Montana and Connecticut.
In Michigan, highly touted Democratic congressional candidate Elissa Slotkin of Oakland County faced discouraging returns early on Election Night in her bid to oust GOP Rep. Mike Bishop. But on Wednesday afternoon, the final numbers showed Slotkin eeked out a win.
As a columnist who, for more than 20 years, has flailed away in warning that gerrymandering was ruining Michigan’s political process, creating hyper-partisan “rigged” elections, I was especially pleased to see the Proposal 2 redistricting reforms win voter approval by a wide margin.
Though staunch conservatives tried to defend the system of politicians drawing election district boundaries behind closed doors, including some rather wild claims in campaign advertising, the voters weren’t buying it. In fact, Republican voters also rejected the phony anti-Prop 2 campaign.
The proposal passed with more than 61 percent support in a bipartisan result that could not have been anticipated several weeks ago. An analysis by Bridge Magazine shows that statewide 65 of 83 counties backed Proposal 2, including 48 that had voted both for President Trump in 2016 and for Republican Bill Schuette for governor on Tuesday.
American democracy is an infuriating, messy business, but the Prop 2 outcome put a smile on my face.
P.S.: Katie Fahey is amazing.