It’s Election Day, a day of reckoning for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, and I’m here to foist a completely radical idea on the American public: Let’s count all the votes.
I know, I know, it sounds nutty — but hear me out. When we set up a contest based on individual Americans exercising their constitutional right to vote for the person they want to represent them in the White House, it seems the smartest way to determine a victor in each state is to tabulate ALL the votes cast by the aforementioned individual Americans BEFORE officially declaring a winner.
It should go something like this:
1) Everybody votes, either in-person or by submitting ballots via mail.
2) Election officials in each state count all the votes, including mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Election Day, regardless of how long it takes.
3) Once all the votes are counted, the vote in each state is certified and an official winner of that state is declared.
Self-righteous “election nerds” and “historians” and “people with a rudimentary understanding of the country’s electoral process” will look at those three steps and say: “Well, yeah, that’s basically how things have always worked.”
But those smarties clearly haven’t been paying attention to President Trump, who believes all the votes must be counted on Election Day and any votes that haven’t been counted when the clock strikes midnight should disappear in a poof of MAGA pixie dust.
At a recent campaign rally in Georgia, Trump said: “Everything has to be counted by the evening of our Election Day. … If they want more time, let them put their ballots in early.”
Trump campaign officials have said that if Trump is leading on Election Day, any additional vote counting that undoes that lead will represent Democrats trying “to steal it back after the election.”
Again, democracy enthusiasts will say: “That’s a deeply unhinged way of thinking about an election. Counting votes isn’t stealing anything, and besides, you can’t steal an election that hasn’t been won yet.”
But Trump keeps saying how bad it is that “states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over.”
So I’m kind of torn over who to believe — people who have a deep understanding and respect for American history and the laws that cover the nation’s electoral system or a guy who has lied about winning a nonexistent prize he calls “the Michigan Man of the Year award” approximately 17,500 times.
It seems the best way to thread this needle it to just count all the votes.
Trump supporters are exuding confidence about Trump’s chances for reelection, so I have to imagine they would want to do all they can to run up the score, right?
Sure, there have been a few places where one might infer that GOP operatives and lawmakers are trying to suppress the vote and how many of them get counted. Like in Texas, where the Republican governor allowed only a single ballot drop-box in a county of 4.7 million people. And again in Texas, where GOP lawmakers have been fighting to get more than 100,000 votes legally cast at drive-up polling sites invalidated.
And in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where GOP legal maneuvers are aimed at invalidating mail-in ballots that arrive after Nov. 3, even if they’re postmarked on or before Election Day. And pretty much anywhere Republicans can find an angle that might reduce the number of votes that get counted.
But can you reasonably look at overwhelming evidence of a concerted GOP attempt to limit the number of votes counted and call it a concerted GOP attempt to limit the number of votes counted? Sounds like a stretch to me.
So it seems the most sensible solution is to just count all the votes, which I’m sure is what Trump and his fellow Republicans really want to see happen, since there’s no way they believe in cheating.
The president and his patriotic propaganda assistants will undoubtedly try to convince you it’s unprecedented for votes to be counted after Election Day. And that’s 100% true, as long as you ignore the fact that votes have always been counted after Election Day, which is why states don’t certify their vote count for days and often weeks after the election.
Trump might also suggest it’s suspicious if no winner is declared before midnight on election night, saying such a thing is unprecedented. That is also 100% true, as long as you ignore what happened in 2016, 2004, 2000, 1976, 1968 and 1960.
I’m not saying Trump and his Republican playmates are attempting anything untoward or desperately trying to game the system to their advantage by seeking, in every way possible, to disenfranchise the mail-in ballots Democrats and Republicans cast during an unprecedented pandemic. Nor am I saying Trump would do anything, no matter how undemocratic, to retain power and avoid admitting he lost in a free and fair election.
I’m not saying either of those things. I’m typing them.
So just to make sure we can all walk away happy, how about we adopt my off-the-wall idea and count all the votes?
It’s so crazy, it just might work.
Rex Huppke is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Readers may send him email at [email protected] Visit Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.