Opinion writer

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) should know better. Behind by less than one percentage point, which amounts to less than 900 votes, in her reelection race in the 4th Congressional District she is now demanding the vote count be stopped. CBS News reports:

In a contest where “every single vote is crucial,” the Love campaign claimed poll-watchers have seen a few cases where voter signatures on ballots accepted by election workers did not appear to match those on file in Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County.

County attorneys pushed back in court documents, arguing state law gives the campaign no right to interrupt the vote count, and letting the campaign question signatures could violate voters’ rights by revealing who they cast their ballots for.

Absent concrete proof, Love’s attempt to block the counting of valid votes (as opposed to investigating which if any ballots may not be valid) is the definition of voter disenfranchisement; it’s precisely what the 15th Amendment was designed to prevent. It’s a frightful comment on the GOP that a supposedly moderate Republican now resorts to the tactics of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, President Trump and others who refuse to accept results that don’t go their way. (“Nothing in their petition shows any violation of election law in Salt Lake County, the county said in a motion asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.”) There is simply no reason to stop counting votes when state law provides a remedy for precisely the sort of problem Love alleges. (“When tabulating mail-in ballots, county elections workers compare signatures to verify a voter’s identity. If a worker decides a voter signature doesn’t match the one on file, the person gets a letter informing them and asks them to sign and return an affidavit confirming their identity.”)

Meanwhile, Republicans in Florida remain determined to deny the premise of democracy that all voters are equal and all votes get counted. The Miami Herald reports:

A federal judge has ordered Florida’s 67 elections supervisors to give thousands of voters whose ballots were rejected over mismatched signatures another two days to fix the problem and have their votes counted toward the results of the 2018 midterms.

Judge Mark Walker ruled early Thursday that the state’s elections offices have unconstitutionally applied the law that lays out the methods for voters to “cure” problematic signatures on absentee and provisional ballots. More than 3,700 such ballots were rejected this year after canvassing boards deemed that a signature on an envelope containing a mail-in or provisional ballot did not match the signature the state had on file for the voter.

The judge’s reasoning is simple and sound: The state cannot set up a bunch of artificial deadlines that result in refusing to count all valid votes. The right to vote is paramount. Once again Republicans are advancing the theory that they should be able to stop the vote count if they don’t like the results. All voters are equal, it seems, but some voters are more equal than others.

There are several issues at play here. First, we have utterly failed to invest needed funds to make voting and vote-counting quick and easy. Voting by mail would cure line-waiting and speed up the vote counting (insofar as tabulation can be done as votes come in). Second, we need to heed the words of James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 10: “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” Ideally states should disallow candidates from supervising or having any role in counting votes in which they are a party; if an update to the Voting Rights Act is required, Congress should enshrine this principle in federal law. And finally, whether it is Trump or Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who said, “If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it, it’s clear,” no elected leader should cry fraud or foul simply on the basis of who won. (This is different than deploring and litigating efforts to suppress votes as seems to be the case in Georgia; voter suppression is wrong whatever the result.) Likewise, ex-officials such as Jeb Bush should not condemn candidates who go to court, as they are constitutionally entitled to do, to ensure all valid votes are counted. While Republicans are primarily responsible for the new anti-democratic tactic of undermining election results, this is one instance where Democrats should not mimic their foes. At least one party must defend the notion that voting is sacred, all votes must be counted and the results must be respected.