How does an election recount work?
A small fire of doubt about America’s voting systems is simmering and politicians from Donald Trump on down are irresponsibly throwing kindling on the flames. In North Carolina, the lead arsonist may be Pat McCrory.
A Florida judge on Monday urged all sides in that state’s contentious US Senate recount to “ramp down the rhetoric,” saying he’d seen no evidence of wrongdoing and that voters needed to be reassured of the election’s integrity.
Just a few hours earlier McCrory, the former governor turned talk show host, was ramping up the rhetoric, making serious allegations of widespread voter fraud in North Carolina and suggesting that he lost his reelection bid in 2016 because of it. Besides being blatantly inaccurate, his remarks are irresponsible because they – without evidence – sow doubt among voters about the foundation of our democracy. Without faith in the legitimacy of our elections, things could crumble quickly.
Under the guise of giving advice to Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott in the ongoing Florida recount, McCrory portrayed North Carolina’s elections as rife with fraud.
His main focus was college students.
“In my particular election we had a lot of college students, who were out of state college students, vote, and they could do it because there was no voter ID which would have shown New Jersey license plates, Pennsylvania license plates, you name it,” McCrory said on his WBT radio show.
“The question is, where do they actually live? Do they live in Queens College or is their residence somewhere in New Jersey or Pennsylvania or Ohio? … If they voted in North Carolina and yet their car is registered elsewhere, they have a driver’s license from elsewhere, they are breaking the law and there is no way we can prove it.”
This is false. College students are allowed to vote based on their college residency. The Census counts college students as residents of their college town. Political district populations are based on students counting as residents and potential voters. And a 1978 unanimous NC Supreme Court ruling that remains in place today said that college students can vote in their college towns if they don’t plan to move back to live with their parents.
McCrory also questioned whether illegal immigrants are voting and alleged that Democrats organize to send voters to the wrong precincts and that illegitimate votes sneak through that way. He also recklessly described in detail a way campaigns could commit voter fraud.
McCrory contributes to the breeding of doubt among voters that elections are being conducted fairly and accurately. And it’s happening across the country, most loudly right now in Florida. Trump tweeted on Monday that “many ballots are missing or forged.” Scott also alleged fraud, even though the secretary of state he appointed said there’s no sign of any.
There are a few things in this area that all Americans of any party should agree on: The legitimacy of our voting systems is vital. Every legal vote should be counted. And throwing around demonstrably false charges, or serious charges with no evidence, weakens our state and nation.