When Sen. Marco Rubio put out an incendiary tweet thread Thursday morning indicating grave concern that Democrats were making an attempt to steal the two major races in Florida – governor and U.S. senator – I wasn’t the only one startled and fascinated by the move.
It’s a big allegation, after all. It wasn’t that long ago that it would have been all but unthinkable for a sitting U.S. senator to clearly imply it, especially in a casual but high-profile social media forum.
I've never seen anything like this. Sen. Rubio is effectively accusing the elections supervisor in Broward County of holding votes in reserve in some fashion to use tactically in a recount.https://t.co/myRFDnbId2
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) November 8, 2018
But there it was. It’s worth reading in full. Rubio stitches together with a few brief tweets the gist of the concern: that the questionable activity is centered on Broward County, where there have been a number of instances of court-recognized vote tampering before (see links in Rubio’s thread); that one of the officials chiefly involved, county election supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes, is presiding over the 2018 vote count; and that numbers aren’t making sense and stashes of ballots are popping up out of nowhere.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 8, 2018
Call him “Little Marco” all you want. I’m prepared to listen to his case for urgency about this.
Others are seeing dubious trends in what’s going on, such as a vote total for one of the top races on the ballot – U.S. senator, between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Governor Rick Scott – that is so low in Broward County that it makes no sense.
How to explain the anomaly? A good question, to which proposed answers that don’t involve chicanery are not credible. One reasonable possibility would be that the vote-counters are withholding a higher number until they decide what it needs to be to give Nelson the win statewide.
Granted, you do have to assume that the voting officials in Broward County have dishonest motives. Given the history of voting shenanigans there, that’s one of the least unreasonable assumptions in this whole mix.
It’s less unreasonable than assuming, as proposed by earnest-sounding commentators, that tens of thousands of voters in Broward County were unable to find the contestants in the senatorial race on their ballots, and therefore failed to cast votes for that one race.
That’s not at all plausible. The Senate race and the governor’s race are the two on the ballot that by far the most voters know are happening. It’s not just non-plausible; it’s ridiculous to suggest that tens of thousands of them simply shrugged and walked away without being able to cast a vote for senator, but no one mentioned that to a poll worker and it was all a big surprise to the county afterward. If it were really true that huge numbers of voters couldn’t find the candidates for U.S. senator on the ballot, that would have been news long before anomalous voting figures started turning up.
In any case, these and other details will no doubt preoccupy us in the days ahead, and don’t need to be hashed through now.
Enter the recount lawyer
What could stand a good airing is the history of “Hillary lawyer” Marc Elias, of Fusion GPS-hiring, dossier-commissioning fame, with working on some of the most contentious recounts in the last 20 years.
Elias leads the delegation of Democratic lawyers “descending on Florida,” to use Rubio’s expression. And vote recounts and voting-rights lawsuits were well known as Elias’s specialty long before he gained notoriety as Hillary’s man at Perkins Coie, the go-between for the Steele dossier in the 2016 presidential campaign.
It’s worth noting at the outset, as always, that Elias’s voting-related activities over the years have benefited from funding by George Soros. Elias doesn’t just get hired to represent other people in their quests to challenge vote counts and voting laws. He is the idea man. Aaron Klein at Breitbart quotes from the Washington Post:
The Post detailed the evolution of Soros’s financial backing:
While Elias will not discuss the funding for his project, Soros’s spokesman Michael Vachon said Elias approached them with a set of proposals for challenging state restrictions that would be helpful “up and down the ballot.”
That was appealing to Soros, who began his political giving with voter mobilization efforts, Vachon said. And they agreed with Elias that there was work to be done beyond what the civil rights groups, to which Soros also contributes, were doing. …
Soros has given $5 million to the trust that funds the litigation, Vachon said, and Elias said he has picked his shots with an eye toward “protecting the Obama coalition” of African Americans, Latinos and young people.
Klein was writing Elias up in November 2016 because Elias represented the Jill Stein effort to get recounts in several states – an effort Hillary Clinton joined in three of them.
He’s an idea man and instigator for voting challenges, but Elias isn’t really an independent litigator carpet-bagging in for purposes of his own. He’s joined at the hip with the Democrats at the national level, and at least through 2014 had his own office at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where he was on-call to respond to voting issues wherever Democratic organizers – or Elias himself – thought they had them.
Over the past decade, since Kerry hired him as his campaign counsel, Elias has risen to become an indispensable figure in the party. He has a second office in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters, where he’ll spend most of Election Day “pacing around” Executive Director Guy Cecil’s office “and driving him nuts for most of the day.”
As chairman of the political law practice at Perkins Coie, Elias oversees 18 attorneys and represents nearly every Democratic senator. The firm’s client list also includes the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association.
On Tuesday, there will be attorneys stationed at each committee, as well as lawyers in state-based boiler rooms.
There’s nothing nefarious about this, per se. But it’s important to understand who and what Elias is: a house lawyer for the national Democratic Party, a fixture whose specialty is working the mechanics of voting in order to get the big, high-profile Democrats elected to the big, high-profile offices.
In this guise, he has been involved in most of the spectacular recounts in recent memory, starting with the Florida recount of the presidential vote in 2000.
Fun with recounts in 2004 and 2008
One of the most notorious cases he worked was the gubernatorial race in Washington in 2004, which featured an exceptionally close tally between Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire.
In Washington, as in Florida, there’s one county that seems to come up again and again with Sudden Ballot Syndrome, ballot tampering, and outright voting manipulation. In Washington it’s King County, which includes Seattle and the Seattle metro area. In December 2004, Richard Baehr at American Thinker described the progress of the heavily-criticized recount in the Washington governor’s race, including the primary role played by King County. An extended excerpt is advisable here, to get the full effect and illuminate how similar it is to what we’re seeing already in Florida:
The Republican candidate for Governor, Dino Rossi, held a lead of a few thousand votes near the end of the counting of the state’s almost two million absentee ballots (70% of Washington’s votes are cast this way). Then, in heavily Democratic King County, officials ‘discovered’ 10,000 additional absentee ballots they had not originally included in the number remaining to be counted. In addition, a Judge ordered the County to allow Democratic Party officials to obtain the names and addresses of 929 people whose ballots were classified as provisional because of mismatched or missing signatures, so as to facilitate the inclusion of these votes. This resulted in a rather unorthodox invasion of privacy: Democratic officials contacted these 929 individuals to ask whom they had voted for in the Governor’s race. If they answered Gregoire, they were then shuttled to the county office to clear up their signature problem. This vote-mining technique added a net 400 votes for Gregoire. The 10,000 extra King County ballots added another 2,000 net votes for Gregoire. As a result of this final Gregoire surge from King County, Rossi’s lead was cut to a scant 261 votes, of about 2.9 million cast.
Then the state began a required mandatory machine recount statewide. But King County officials decided to also hand recount 700 previously ‘uncounted’ ballots for Governor. These ballots were uncounted only in the sense that they had been put through the machine, and the machine had not detected any vote for Governor on them. … Rossi’s lead slipped to just 42 votes. …
The state Democratic Party then paid for a statewide hand recount of the ballots that had already been machine counted twice. The machinations of this hand recount are described every day in the brilliant group blog SoundPolitics.com. As Rossi’s statewide lead crept up to over a 120 votes as eastern Washington and more rural counties recounted their votes, desperate Democratic officials in King County reached back into their bag for one more cache of votes. This time they discovered 573 uncounted absentee votes with missing or inconsistent signatures. They found another 22 hidden near some box in an office.
For those who may not remember, Dino Rossi eventually conceded, rather than continuing to fight what to any reasonable observer was apparently a desperately rigged vote-manipulation effort by the Washington Democrats and the “King County machine.”
Marc Elias’s “breakout” project came four years later, when he took the lead role representing Democrat Al Franken in the 2008 Minnesota race against Republican Norm Coleman for U.S. Senate. The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the early going in what became an infamously questionable election and the longest-running recount in U.S. history, dragging on until June 2009.
When Minnesotans woke up last Wednesday, Republican Senator Norm Coleman led Mr. Franken by 725 votes. By that evening, he was ahead by only 477. As of yesterday, Mr. Coleman’s margin stood at 206. This lopsided bleeding of Republican votes is passing strange considering that the official recount hasn’t even begun.
The vanishing Coleman vote came during a week in which election officials are obliged to double-check their initial results. Minnesota is required to do these audits, and it isn’t unusual for officials to report that they transposed a number here or there. In a normal audit, these mistakes could be expected to cut both ways. Instead, nearly every “fix” has gone for Mr. Franken, in some cases under strange circumstances.
For example, there was Friday night’s announcement by Minneapolis’s director of elections that she’d forgotten to count 32 absentee ballots in her car. The Coleman campaign scrambled to get a county judge to halt the counting of these absentees, since it was impossible to prove their integrity 72 hours after the polls closed. The judge refused on grounds that she lacked jurisdiction. [Note: the election director in question later denied that she had made such an announcement, although Minnesota officials acknowledged that ballots were toted around in people’s personal vehicles during the vote processing. – J.E.]
Up in Two Harbors, another liberal outpost, Mr. Franken picked up an additional 246 votes. In Partridge Township, he racked up another 100. Election officials in both places claim they initially miscommunicated the numbers. Odd, because in the Two Harbors precinct, none of the other contests recorded any changes in their vote totals.
According to conservative statistician John Lott, Mr. Franken’s gains so far are 2.5 times the corrections made for Barack Obama in the state, and nearly three times the gains for Democrats across Minnesota Congressional races. Mr. Lott notes that Mr. Franken’s “new” votes equal more than all the changes for all the precincts in the entire state for the Presidential, Congressional and statehouse races combined (482 votes).
Eventually, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided to award the election to Franken, who prevailed by a total of 312 votes. A watchdog group challenging ineligible votes was able to establish, however, that more than 312 votes were cast in 2008 by convicted felons, who were voting illegally under the law at the time. (The tally was at least 393, and as discussed by Byron York in 2012 may have been more than 1,000.)
Funny patterns, and Elias, are back in 2018
In Broward County on Thursday, Brenda Snipes failed to answer simple questions from local media about the status of the vote count, and when pressed, said she would “go find out.” She then walked away and never came back.
Reportedly, 100 provisional ballots in Miami-Dade County were rejected since Tuesday because the voters in question had attempted to vote more than once.
This video was posted to Instagram by a Florida woman who says the people in the video told her the rental truck had left boxes of provisional ballots and they were moving the ballots. But as she points out, the rental truck is sitting right there the whole time the people are toting around the alleged boxes of provisional ballots, apparently moving them in or out of personal vehicles.
Caught On Video: Concerned citizen sees ballots being transported in private vehicles & transferred to rented truck on Election night. This violates all chain of custody requirements for paper ballots. Were the ballots destroyed & replaced by set of fake ballots? Investigate now! pic.twitter.com/GUPZnz7Gny
— Tim Canova (@Tim_Canova) November 8, 2018
There’s no way to prove what’s going on in this video, but it clearly bears investigation.
Rick Scott is suing the Broward County elections supervisor to force compliance with state law, which among other things requires her to turn over “records detailing the counting and collection of ballots” on request. Although Scott’s campaign has made the request, Snipes has failed to respond.
Scott cites nearly 100,000 “new votes” magically “found” in Broward and Palm Beach Counties after election day (which may relate to that weird video with the rental truck, and the link near the top about the teacher finding a box of provisional ballots “left behind” at a school).
It will be egregiously improper if the team of Democratic lawyers arriving in Florida with Marc Elias has better access to information about the vote than Governor Rick Scott has been able to gain. But the likelihood is real, in Dr. Snipes’s county, that that’s exactly what will happen.
In Arizona, meanwhile, where the senatorial race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema remains too close to call, the number of uncounted ballots has risen since election day, from 602,000 to 631,000. This is said, plausibly, to be the result of mail-in ballots arriving after the election (but still within the time period required for the ballots to be eligible for counting).
A wary GOP is suing to limit how long the election authorities can take to validate signatures on the mail-in ballots. So far the accretion of new ballots in Arizona doesn’t look as overtly suspicious as the case in Florida, but the astonishing number of still-uncounted ballots – reportedly nearly 20% of the total ballots cast – and the number of methods by which ballots wander into the vote tally in the Grand Canyon State have stakeholders concerned. Regardless of which party you think is prone to vote-tampering, the crazy-quilt of voting methods in Arizona fosters favorable conditions for it.
In Georgia, where there doesn’t appear at this point to be a path to victory in the governor’s race for Democrat Stacey Abrams, her campaign has launched an “aggressive provisional ballot chase,” buying ads to urge those who cast provisional ballots to contact their hotline. It seems doubtful that Abrams’s organization wants to help voters who supported Republican Brian Kemp get their ballots counted.
More likely, the Abrams campaign will ask the same question posed to King County provisional voters in Washington in 2004: which candidate did you vote for? Only if they give the right answer will Georgia provisional voters get help from Abrams.
We have days, perhaps weeks ahead of us to see how things develop in Florida, Arizona, and Georgia. I wouldn’t expect Kyrsten Sinema to have conceded before now, given the circumstances in her race with McSally. But Stacey Abrams has no numerical path to victory in Georgia, yet is determined to keep fighting as if there exists some force majeure right to do so.
In Florida, Andrew Gillum had already conceded to Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race before the phalanx of Democratic lawyers started arriving, and Rick Scott was leading Bill Nelson by a comfortable margin before the “new ballots” started showing up. Gillum and Nelson are now, like Abrams in Georgia, determined to “fight.”
The pastiche of voting methods theoretically intended to make voting easier on the public is actually, in too many cases, making the vote harder to count honestly and reliably, and certify on the reasonable timeline to which the people are entitled. Voting certification and ballot-finding are not, in fact, things that should be left open-ended in the name of “rights” or “access” until one political party is satisfied with the electoral outcome. That’s not how any of this works, and the American people are not required to sit still for it in the name of any value we hold.
The mechanics of voting have gotten out of hand. They offer too much scope for subversion. We don’t need Russian bots to undermine our faith in our electoral processes. Misguided voting policies and predatory vote tampering and litigation are doing a better job of that than Russian bots ever could, and those trends are going to sour the people on the integrity of our electoral process sooner rather than later.