A Republican Governor of Florida with a vested interest in the outcome of an election that could determine the fate of the nation. Sound familiar?
No, it’s not 2000 when then Governor Jeb Bush used his office and political allies during the recount of Florida ballots that would determine whether his brother, George W. Bush, would become the 43rd president of the United States. In this case, it is Governor Rick Scott using his office and political allies to determine whether he will become the next United States Senator. In both cases, the conflict of interest is obvious. Scott shouldn’t oversee anything to do with the outcome of this race as he has a vested interest in it. That has become all the more clear with the biased and incendiary approach Scott has taken to addressing this matter.
In fact, Scott has continued this approach even though the Florida Secretary of State has ordered a statewide machine recount of all 67 counties. A recount occurs if the initial results show that there is a one half of one percent difference. A machine recount takes all the ballots and runs them through a county’s precinct tabulator or a central tabulator. Any ballots with an overvote, where multiple choices were made, or undervote, where no vote or too few choices is made, is set aside in the event a manual recount is ordered. The machine recount becomes the second set of unofficial returns.
The recount will address three races, United States Senate, governor, and Agriculture Commissioner. Of the three races, fewer votes were cast in the Senate race than the other two offices. Given that it is the first race on the ballot, and a nationally high profile one, that alone is odd and should raise eyebrows. But, the involvement of Governor Scott should sound the alarm.
Scott has also made unfounded claims and exerted undue influence to undermine the election to benefit him. That is wrong. Scott gave an incendiary speech about two counties: Broward and Palm Beach. Scott claimed “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the people of Florida..The leftwing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere. There are 67 counties in Florida, only these two counties are involved in these shenanigans. There are NO OTHER COUNTIES – REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT (emphasis added by Scott) - that are trying to steal this election, or who are still finding ballots…I am asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate this immediately and I am considering every single legal option available.”
Counting every vote, properly and fairly, is the most basic tenet of democracy.
With that statement, the protests descended to one place; Broward County. In 2000, the “Brooks Brothers” protest with paid protestors, some now very familiar Republican faces including Roger Stone, at the direction of the Bush campaign arrived in Miami-Dade County.
In 2018 the protestors are led by Congressman Matt Gaetz from the first Congressional District, part of Broward County, along with crowds chanting “Lock her up” – apparently directed at the Broward County Voting Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who is in charge of the recount.
Snipes was actually appointed by Governor Jeb Bush and, yes, has a checkered record, yet there are ample procedures to make sure the count is properly conducted. This includes Governor Scott’s lawyers, and others, being able to ensure that each vote is correctly counted and recorded.
Yet, Gaetz has been seen in multiple videos badgering election officials, interfering with the process put in place by law, and confronting an African American supporter of Andrew Gillum stating “You don’t get to go in and monkey with ballots…” He is also one of Trump’s most vocal defenders in the Russia investigation. Clearly, Gaetz’s conduct and that of the protestors is an effort to disrupt the recount and to make sure every vote is not counted, just like 2000.
The use of protest and intimidation was effective in 2000. It stifled the recount, became a media circus, and Republicans were able politically and publicly to gain the upper hand to successfully have only certain votes…not all votes…counted. Ultimately, that approach contributed to putting George W. Bush in the White House based on a Supreme Court decision. What hasn’t changed is Democrats wanting every vote counted everywhere. And Republicans do not.
Republicans prevailed by restricting the number of votes counted in 2000. That won’t work in 2018. Voters now see the efforts Republicans have gone to in the last 18 years to restrict voting, actively engaging in voter suppression, dropping voters from voter registration files, gerrymandering, and other actions that make it harder to vote and interfere when they are counted.
That is un-American. This Veterans Day weekend, three retired generals and scores of veterans signed a statement that supported counting every vote. In it they said that not counting every vote is “not only un-democratic, it is outright un-American.” That is true. They fought for our right to vote and to conduct fair and free elections.
Clearly, Trump and Scott have a vested interest in the outcome of this race. For Trump, another Republican Senate seat will help add to the majority he will need to confirm appointments, including judges, that he wants as well as provide a margin to avoid impeachment if it ever occurs. Scott not only wants to be a Senator, he also would also be a reliable Trump supporter in the Senate. None of that is a reason to subvert democracy.
Counting every vote, properly and fairly, is the most basic tenet of democracy. Our democracy is at stake today. Anyone who doesn’t support that is an American unworthy of serving our country.