(AP Photo/Bob Christie)
Opinion writer

While much of the post-election attention is being sucked up by vote-counting chaos in Florida (who could have predicted it), there’s another Senate race with an ongoing dispute over votes that may have escaped your attention. This race’s conclusion might help upend the conventional wisdom about the 2018 election.

And guess what, Republicans are suing to prevent all the votes from being counted:

As the Arizona Senate vote count starts to tip into Democratic terrain, a judge Friday will hear a lawsuit by the GOP seeking to limit the tally — or expand it in the state’s conservative-leaning rural areas.

Four local Republican parties filed a lawsuit Wednesday night challenging the state’s two biggest counties for allowing voters to help resolve problems with their mail-in ballot signatures after Election Day. If the signature on the voter registration doesn’t match that on the sealed envelope, both Maricopa and Pima County allow voters to help them fix, or “cure” it, up to five days after Election Day.

We seem to see the same pattern over and over again: A race is extremely close, Democrats demand that every vote be counted, and Republicans, having spent the time leading up to the election putting up as many hurdles as possible to voting, particularly among minority groups, try to shut down the counting before all the votes can be counted. This effort is carried out with lawsuits and through an intense propaganda campaign roping in every Republican with a functioning larynx and often centered on Fox News, where the president’s good friend Sean Hannity is whipping himself into hysterical outrage and demanding that “Somebody needs to go to jail here” because votes are still being counted in Florida.

So what’s taking so long in Arizona? On election night, Republican Martha McSally led the Senate race there, a result which helped solidify a narrative in the media that while Democrats did well to win control of the House, Republicans practically ran the table in the Senate and because of that the election was basically a wash. That narrative is completely wrong, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment, but as of now, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is leading McSally by just over 9,000 votes.

But we don’t know if that will hold, because there still appear to be hundreds of thousands of votes to count. Things are moving so slowly in Arizona because the state counts the election day votes first, then moves on to the early and mail-in votes, which make up most of the votes in the state. That’s why Maricopa County — which accounts for more than half of Arizona voters — has hundreds of thousands of ballots still to count. Here’s one incredible detail from the county’s chief election official:

Fontes said his office’s 1980s-era computer system is partly to blame. It was put in when Maricopa was far smaller and only a handful of its residents voted by mail.

He said the system only allows his office to tally about 75,000 votes a day. There are another 375,000 votes outstanding in Maricopa County alone as of Thursday night.

The tally in Maricopa is extremely close, with Sinema slightly leading, so anything could happen.

Now let’s consider that narrative, which you no doubt saw, of Republicans doing surprisingly well in the Senate which led overall to an election that was almost a tie.

First, Democrats look like they will gain around 35 seats in the House — more than they did in the “wave” of 2006 and enough to give them control of the chamber, utterly transforming the political landscape for the remainder of Trump’s term. But let’s take a close look at the Senate.

The Senate map Democrats faced this year was absolutely brutal. They had to defend 26 Senate seats, while Republicans only had to defend 9. Democrats were certainly unhappy to lose three incumbents in Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota, but those are all hugely Republican states (Trump won them by 36 points, 19 points, and 19 points respectively). If we assume Synema holds on to win, that would mean Democrats won 7 races in states Trump won, while Republicans won zero races in states Trump lost. Zero.

If Synema does hold on to win, it would mean that with all their advantages, Republicans managed a net gain of only two Senate seats. And since the Florida race is headed for a recount, it is entirely possible that in the end they could wind up having gained only one seat.

Now combine that with all the other victories Democrats notched. They flipped 7 governorships from red to blue, while Republicans took no governorships held by Democrats. They gained “trifectas” (holding the governor and both houses of the state legislature) in 6 states, and broke Republican trifectas in 4 more. They gained well over 300 state legislative seats and now control a majority of the country’s attorney generals. And progressive ballot initiatives on voting rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana legalization, and the minimum wage won in states across the country.

And they managed it all in the face of relentless Republican voter suppression efforts, which start long before election day and, as we’re seeing now, continue after election day is past. It’s probably too late for those efforts to yield any fruit in Arizona, but as Florida shows us, they won’t ever stop trying to rig things in their favor.

Read more:

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