When Our Votes Will Be Counted

With so many ballots being mailed or otherwise submitted before Election Day, people are wondering when we’ll know the results. The good news is that only four states wait until Election Day to begin processing ballots. I think this means Election Night will provide some blessed relief, especially if states let us know what percentage of the ballots have been counted (the percentage of “precincts reported” probably won’t be as meaningful this year). Even if the result isn’t clear that night, it should be clear by the next day.

I say that because I’m convinced this election won’t be very close. Millions of voters gave the maniac the benefit of the doubt four years ago. Now they know what they had to lose (jobs, health, peace of mind, not hearing about a dangerous fool every day, etc.).

This is from The New York Times, which has more information about the process.


At the House Formerly Known as White

I’ve avoided the news for a day and a half (sleeping helps) but someone shared this thread from former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. It’s a nice summary of last week’s authoritarian festivities at the White, sorry, at the Txxxx House:

For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot of familiar messages, symbols, and methods on display . . .  at the #RNCConvention.

1. Cult of the Personality. This show was all about Txxxx. ( 3 years after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev’s gave his secret speech in 1956, titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.” I wonder if a future GOP leader will give a similar speech someday?)

2. Administrative resources. Autocrats and semi-autocrats frequently use government resources for personal electoral gain. We have #HatchAct to prevent such behavior in the U.S. It’s obviously not working.

3. Blatant disregard for the law. That Txxxx’s team dared anyone to charge them with violating the #HatchAct is exactly what Putin and others autocrats do all the time. Laws don’t apply to the king & his court, only to the subjects.

4. Blatant disregard for facts. As U.S. ambassador to Russia, I found this Putin regime trait most frustrating. We – the U.S. government- were constrained by facts. They were not. Txxxx obviously was not constrained by facts last night. He usually isn’t . . . 

5. Us versus Them populism. “Elites” versus “the people” nationalism. Autocratic populists use polarizing identity politics to divide societies all the time. Many populist leaders actually have little in common with the “masses.” (Putin is very rich.)

6. The opposition is the “enemy of the people.” Putin & other autocratic populists cast their opponents as radicals & revolutionaries. They don’t focus on their own records – often there is little to celebrate – but the horrors that will happen if they lose power. Sound familiar?

6b. There is one difference between Putin and Txxxx so far. Putin also claims falsely that his political opponents are supported by foreign enemies, the U.S. & the West. Txxxx has not gone there full-throated yet. But my guess it’s coming. “Beijing Biden” is a hint.

7. Law and Order. Autocratic populists all shout about it, even when the opposite is happening on their watch.

8. The good tsar versus the bad boyars. Kings and tsars always blamed bad provincial leaders for national ills. Putin blames the governors all the time… just like Txxxx.

9. Individual acts of royal kindness. Putin, like the tsars he emulates, does this all the time. Txxxx offering a pardon or “granting” citizenship (which of course he didn’t & doesn’t have the power to do) are typical, faux gestures of royal kindness toward his subjects.

10. Homage and fealty. Vassals must signal their complete loyalty and absolute devotion to kings and autocrats. Those that don’t are banished from the royal court or the party. (Where were the Bushes last night?)

11. The royal family. In this dimension, Txxxx acts more like a monarch than even Putin. (but watch Lukashenko and his gun-toting teenage son in Belarus) The many Txxxx family members who performed this week – even a girlfriend got a slot – went beyond even what Putin does.

12. There’s still one big difference. . . .  

Successful autocrats are re-elected, but voting still matters here (if we all vote).

Just Do It

The Washington Post editorial board is launching a series of editorials that might be called “Stating the Obvious”. But this is well-done:

After he is nominated at a pared-down Republican convention next week, President Txxxx will make this argument to the American people: Things were great until China loosed the novel coronavirus on the world. If you reelect me, I will make things great again.

Seeking reelection in the midst of the worst public health crisis and sharpest economic downturn of our lifetimes, this may, realistically, be the only argument left to him. But, fittingly for a president who has spoken more than 20,000 lies during his presidency, it rests on two huge falsehoods.

One is that the nation, his presidency and, above all, Mr. Txxxx himself are innocent victims of covid-19. In fact, his own negligence, ignorance and malpractice turned what would have been a daunting challenge for any president into a national disaster.

The other is that there was anything to admire in his record before the virus struck. It is true that the economic growth initiated under President Barack Obama had continued, at about the same modest rate. Mr. Txxxx achieved this growth by ratcheting up America’s deficit and long-term debt to record levels, with a tax cut that showered benefits on the wealthy.

But beyond the low unemployment rate he gained and lost, history will record Mr. Txxxx’s presidency as a march of wanton, uninterrupted, tragic destruction. America’s standing in the world, loyalty to allies, commitment to democratic values, constitutional checks and balances, faith in reason and science, concern for Earth’s health, respect for public service, belief in civility and honest debate, beacon to refugees in need, aspirations to equality and diversity and basic decency — Mr. Txxxx torched them all.

Four years ago, after Mr. Txxxx was nominated in Cleveland, we did something in this space we had never done before: Even before the Democrats had nominated their candidate, we told you that we could never, under any circumstances, endorse Dxxxx Txxxx for president. He was, we said, “uniquely unqualified” to be president.

“Mr. Txxxx’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together,” we warned. “His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.”

The nation has indeed spent much of the past three-plus years fretting over whether that experiment could survive Mr. Txxxx’s depredations. The resistance from some institutions, at some times, has been heartening. The depth of the president’s incompetence, which even we could not have imagined, may have saved the democracy from a more rapid descent.
But the trajectory has been alarming. The capitulation of the Republican Party has been nauseating. Misbehavior that many people vowed never to accept as normal has become routine.

A second term might injure the experiment beyond recovery.

And so, over the coming weeks, we will do something else we have never done before: We will publish a series of editorials on the damage this president has caused — and the danger he would pose in a second term. And we will unabashedly urge you to do your civic duty and vote: Vote early and vote safely, but vote.


Hell, you can vote early, vote safely, vote late, vote unsafely. Just vote.

So We Leave No Doubt What This Country Stands For

This administration has shown that it will tear our democracy down. . . . So we have to get busy building it up. By pouring all of our efforts into these 76 days and by voting like never before. For Joe and Kamala and candidates up and down the ticket. So that we leave no doubt about what this country that we love stands for, today and for all our days to come. — Barack Obama

In case you missed it, a former president, a real president, addressed the nation last night from Philadelphia. It’s nineteen minutes that are worth your time.

When the Election Results Are Official

We’ve wasted thousands of hours the past four years repeating and correcting the lies and stupidities of You Know Who. But along the way there’s been some educational value. Here’s an example from The Washington Post [with my commentary in italics]:

President Txxxx is ramping up his attacks on mail-in voting by insisting election results “must” be known on election night. “No more big election night answers?” he tweeted last month. “Ridiculous! Just a formula for RIGGING an Election . . .”

The news media have pushed back on his baseless claims of fraud. But they agree with him on one point: There is likely to be a “delay” in election results because of a surge in mail-in votes.

But that’s wrong. If results aren’t known on election night, that doesn’t mean there’s a delay. The fact is, there are never official results on election night. There never have been.

Predictions of a delay rest on a misunderstanding of the vote-counting process . . . If election-night results are considered the norm, and what happens this year is described as a “delay,” it will be easy to paint the result as problematic — and for Txxxx to continue to spread suspicions about the entire process.

Concerns about a supposed delay stem from a coronavirus-fueled interest in absentee and mail-in ballots. . . . Counting [all of] those ballots could potentially take days or weeks . . .

Yet even if [the final count] takes several weeks, that wouldn’t constitute a delay — because by law, election results aren’t official until more than a month after the election. The 12th Amendment and the accompanying Electoral Count Act of 1887 give states five weeks — this year, until Dec. 8 — to count their popular votes. That tally determines each state’s presidential electors, who cast their state’s votes six days later, on Dec. 14. Only if states miss that December deadline would election results be genuinely late.

That means all of us — politicians, the media, pundits and voters in general — need to reorient our thinking. The election is officially decided in December, not in November. There is nothing pernicious, or even unusual, about this. The only problem is one of perception.

The misperception isn’t surprising. We’ve come to expect that the media will announce the winner on election night. After all, that’s been the case for more than six decades. News outlets often report the results calculated by research groups or the Associated Press, which collect returns from individual precincts and add them up.

It’s essential for us to get this right. If we do not, we give ammunition to those who would undermine democracy by willfully [and/or foolishly] getting it wrong.

But the media results are projections based on preliminary returns rather than a certified final number. In previous years, that has been a distinction without a difference, since there was virtually no daylight between news media projections and actual results. One notable exception was the 2000 presidential election, when confusion over the Florida vote ended with the Supreme Court declaring George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore.

. . . Since 2000, Democrats have done better as later ballots are counted — the “blue shift” first identified in a 2013 paper by one of us, Edward Foley — which could significantly impact results. Hypothetically, Txxxx could be winning on election night [although he won’t be] . . . . and claim he has enough electoral college votes to declare victory. Yet after all votes are counted, Joe Biden could be [will be] the actual winner. Txxxx has been pushing the false narrative that any change after election night is fraudulent. That is unequivocally not the case. . . .


I don’t think it’s going to be a close election. The result will be reasonably clear on election night (technically, by early the next morning). But it’s good to be prepared when people who don’t know or care what they’re talking about start talking.