“Stop the Count”

Look, either you believe in democracy or you don't.

The Detroit Free Press has quite the headline: Rival protests shout ‘count every vote,’ ‘stop the count’ in metro Detroit.

Rival chants of “stop the count” and “count the votes” echoed across Detroit as poll workers tallied absentee ballots Wednesday, in some cases just inside the door from the shouts. 

Would-be challengers denied entry to counting being done at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit, already filled with 570 challengers of various leanings, pounded on the windows and chanted in support of a lawsuit President Donald Trump said he filed to stop the count due to concern with transparency.

Elsewhere in the city, Detroit Will Breathe protesters called for the count to continue as the pending results in a contentious presidential election gripped the nation.

At its core, it is chilling for a crowd to chant “stop the count” when we are talking here about legally cast ballots that we all knew weren’t all going to be all counted by election night. Indeed, all the votes are never all counted by election night.

Wanting ballots not to be counted because you fear that your rival will win is anti-democratic. And while some may think they are fighting fraud, they only think so because their leaders, such as the sitting president, have lied to them. That, also, is anti-democratic.

Along the lines of Kingdaddy’s post earlier in the week: either you are for democracy or you aren’t.

And people who are in favor of democracy don’t try to stop ballot counts, especially over lame excuses like there not being more seats for observers.

Count every vote and let the person who won the most popular support win the election. That’s the way it is supposed to work (caveats about it not always working that way in US institutions apply).

Side note: this all feels like a lame attempt to re-create the “Brooks Brother” riots in Florida in 2000, which did lead to ballot not being counted. It won’t work this time.

More later.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    Republicans-in-the-electorate have been conditioned to believe that late-counted votes are some kind of Democratic dirty trick. Hell, I’m a political scientist and had that visceral reaction every time a recount in a close contest suddenly found a lot more Democratic votes.

    Our process just isn’t very transparent. And it really doesn’t help that election officials, including Secretaries of State, are partisans.

    In an ideal world, we’d have a normal President who would have conditioned his base to expect what’s happening right now. This is a unique election and, as you say, “we” all knew that. But I don’t think normal people did. And Trump has gone out of his way to make his voters think that Big City Democrats were going to steal the election.

    Thankfully, I don’t think it’s really working. These are big cities and the number showing up to protest is vanishingly small.

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  2. Scott says:

    Our process just isn’t very transparent. And it really doesn’t help that election officials, including Secretaries of State, are partisans.

    And that is entirely by design. Our elections processes are all over the place, mechanized, by far too many in control, to prevent voter registration, voting, and vote counting. And it has gone on since the founding of the nation.

    There are good faith efforts to have a valid voter system. There is also all a lot of bad faith in creating our voter systems.

    So the question is: What is worse? The invalid vote created by fraud or accident? Or the vote prevented by structural barriers to voter registration and actual voting? I would side on not preventing a valid vote.

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  3. Blue Galangal says:

    @James Joyner: What is not transparent? The PA GOP prevented early counting of mail in and early voting in part so they could make these claims of voter fraud while mail in and early ballots were being counted. That’s widely known. Thus the ballots have to be counted after the polls close. They’re being counted in front of observers with paper trails. Anything else – including suggesting that this process is not transparent – is normalizing the the ratfking.

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  4. KM says:

    @James Joyner:
    Part of that goes back to their implicit assumption that they are in the majority so larger batches of Dem votes “appearing” must look like ratfucking. Cities are clusters of Dems so of course they’d naturally manifests as larger batch units during the process. Republicans are scattered about the rurals areas so 500 here, 2000 there trickling in is the “normal” progression rate to them with larger batches seeming fake due to their outlier status. Even the terminology you used – “suddenly found” reflects on the unconscious bias the GOP has instilled in it’s base. Kudos to you for recognizing the impulse for what it is – propaganda.

    As for the idiots demanding “stop the count” of course they’re being undemocratic. Their guy is losing so that has to stop. They’re there because they got an email explicitly telling them that and hurry up to get out there and stop it. They don’t care about hypocrisy or why someone sent them to harass innocent workers – they’re there to “stop” the vote and know it. It would be like fans flooding the field to stop the last play because their team is slightly behind but the game-winning touchdown for the other team is about to happen. Stupid, against the rules, ruins the point of the game and does more damage than they intended but hey, they’re stopping that play!

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  5. @James Joyner:

    Our process just isn’t very transparent.

    I am not so sure this is true. As noted, there are observers watching the process, some places with counts have cameras and numerous other have press present.

    The rules are known. It is just people don’t really pay attention until it is crunch time and often team-based filters come into play.

    And it really doesn’t help that election officials, including Secretaries of State, are partisans.

    This I whole-heartedly agree with.

    Thankfully, I don’t think it’s really working.

    I concur.

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  6. @Blue Galangal:

    The PA GOP prevented early counting of mail in and early voting in part so they could make these claims of voter fraud while mail in and early ballots were being counted.

    This is maddeningly true. It is so transparently hypocritical.

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  7. @Scott:

    Our elections processes are all over the place, mechanized, by far too many in control, to prevent voter registration, voting, and vote counting.

    To be clear: I agree that the overall process is a mess. I do think, however, that the basic rules about what to do right now, post-voting, are pretty clear (although certainly imperfect).

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Blue Galangal: Yes, I think the Pennsylvania process is a transparent as it could be under the circumstances. The Republican legislature really tried to make early counting difficult and those doing the counting now are literally doing so while being live-streamed over the Internet.

    But the arcana of which ballots get rejected, which ones are hand-counted, and all the rest is really invisible to the public. It’s really easy to understand why people on the losing side—particularly if they were initially declared the winner or lost after having a big lead with 97% of the votes counted—will feel like something untoward happened. They just have no way of knowing they weren’t cheated.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I agree that the overall process is a mess. I do think, however, that the basic rules about what to do right now, post-voting, are pretty clear (although certainly imperfect).

    Oh, absolutely. I’m extrapolating the normal process to what’s happening in this, very abnormal, year.

    Trump and the Republicans have gone out of their way to make this process worse than it had to be, precisely to sew doubt. And the television networks didn’t help with the nonsense of showing all the Rust Belt and other swing states as Red—sometimes with massive Trump leads—based on an early count that we knew would favor Trump.

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  10. Bill says:

    @James Joyner:

    Our process just isn’t very transparent. And it really doesn’t help that election officials, including Secretaries of State, are partisans.

    It would be great if we could get the politicians out of politics but I just don’t know how this is possible.

    Just like when our local newspaper floats the idea for a non-partisan redistricting committee. Where are they going to find these people?

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: They just have no way of knowing they weren’t cheated.

    Such horseshit James. They can trust the process just as DEMs did in 2016 (even the undemocratic electoral college vote was accepted). But they want to be aggrieved, so they choose not to.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Trump and the Republicans have gone out of their way to make this process worse than it had to be, precisely to sew doubt.

    Heh, it certainly was stitched onto their brains!

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  13. KM says:

    @James:

    It’s really easy to understand why people on the losing side—particularly if they were initially declared the winner or lost after having a big lead with 97% of the votes counted—will feel like something untoward happened. They just have no way of knowing they weren’t cheated.

    Which is EXACTLY why Trump declared victory before all was said and done. Nobody declared him the winner of state that’s “reversed” but him – if anything, Biden should the one screaming since AZ got called for him and now it’s in question. Trump is the one who called himself the winner so anybody screaming about cheating is taking him at his word, not the facts.

    As for being in the lead with 97%, that’s just innumeracy in play. 3% of an Dem-heavy area means a ton of Dem votes and thus it narrows or flips. Think of it in sports terms: Bills 7 -Patriots 10. Last play with a 10 seconds left on the clock, Bills are 1st and 10 with at the 3 yard line. Fans flood the field screaming “stop the game!!!!” because it would be cheating somehow for the play to continue and the Bills to “reverse” the Patriots’ lead. It’s not over until 100% of the votes are counted, otherwise you are making some pretty big assumptions. True, they might be valid but it’s not over till its over.

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  14. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Good tweet this morning: “The only way Trump can get to 270 is if he loses 40 pounds.”

    Also: his claim of victory on election night would have worked better if he hadn’t been talking about doing it for a week before.

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  15. Northerner says:

    I can think of another reason (besides hoping to win) for Trump to make claims of fraud, including demands to stop counting etc. Suppose he’s sure he’s lost, and he’s worried that he’s going to be prosecuted for various things when his term is over (as a lot of people are demanding, likely with strong legal basis). He probably thinks it’d be good to have a strong bargaining chip to make sure the prosecution doesn’t happen, and having a large (as in tens of millions) and potentially violent group of supporters who think he was cheated out of the presidency.

    It wouldn’t be the first time in world history (not sure about American history) that a replaced ruler was granted safety in return for leaving peacefully instead of spurring his supporters to revolt against his “oppressors”.

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  16. Joe says:

    It would be like fans flooding the field to stop the last play because their team is slightly behind but the game-winning touchdown for the other team is about to happen.

    To extend your analogy, KM, imagine if a visiting team, down by 7, started the last play with 1 second on the clock, but the home fans stormed the field when it hit zero to stop the play. Or even, imagine that the fans watched that play and the visitors scored 6. The rules are that the point after touchdown is an untimed play. Imagine the fans, however, trying to storm the field to prevent the 1- or 2-point conversion. This clock management is how the game works. While the home team might feel “robbed” by scores occurring after the clock runs, that is exactly how its supposed to work.

    ETA: free throws on a foul that occurred as time expired.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @Bill:

    Just like when our local newspaper floats the idea for a non-partisan redistricting committee. Where are they going to find these people?

    I don’t know the mechanics but lots of states have done this to good effect. Indeed, I voted for a ballot measure here in Virginia to do it here and it has passed 66-34.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    As for being in the lead with 97%, that’s just innumeracy in play.

    Sure. But most people are innumerate! And we live in a divided country with information bubbles. If you go to bed with Trump appearing to have a national landslide and wake up to find that things are suddenly trending in Biden’s direction, something is going to seem fishy. And that’s much more so when Trump and his minions have prepared the field for “Democrat fraud.”

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  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Colludy Rudy is leading the charge…that’s all you need to know when deciding how seriously to take these arguments.

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    For the past 4 years when I talk to my older brother on the phone, he has used the metaphor of Trump being “the canary in the coal mine.” (Maybe a tribute to our grandfather who was a plumber in the mines that the railroad owned in Roslyn, Washington.) More and more, as I consider that metaphor, I imagine a canary screaming at the top of his lungs

    HEY! THE MINE HAS COLLAPSED AND WE’RE ALL TRAPPED IN HERE! IS ANYBODY OUT THERE PAYING ATTENTION! HELP!!! HELP!!

    Another old line from Pogo, “from here on up, it’s downhill all the way.”

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  21. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    There’s a rather infamous play between the Giants and Eagles in the 80s. With few seconds left, the Giants were ahead by under 6 points and had to run one last play. they ran the ball, fumbled it, and the Eagles scored and won the game. In commentary about the play later, lots of people said their reaction was “that can’t possibly count.” It did, and that’s one reason for the “victory” formation to run out the clock safely.

    At work, the government proposals have several strict deadlines. For instance, if proposals are opened at 10 am, you can’t present yours at 10:00:01 (I saw that happen literally once). But other deadlines are more flexible. For example, samples may be received between 10 am and 2 pm. Perhaps they won’t take yours if you arrive a minute after 2, but if you arrive one second before and can’t unload all your samples by the deadline, you’ll very likely still be allowed in because you made it on time.

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  22. Blue Galangal says:

    @James Joyner: But they have an entire paper trail – I just saw that something like 90% of ballots this year have a paper trail – to attest to how they weren’t cheated. Unless they define cheating as “voting for the Democrat (while brown).”

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  23. Pylon says:

    There are a couple valid reasons for not starting a count until election day (indeed perhaps even after polls close), which is to prevent leakage of ongoing results (which in turn causes unwanted reactions). That’s a security issue only though.

    But if that’s the rule you want, whining about slow vote counting is just idiotic. And even if that’s not understood, one can be frustrated without descending on election offices screaming about fraud. The latter is all on the Trump, and right wing media (which includes facebook).

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  24. NW-Steve says:

    Look, either you believe in democracy or you don’t.

    A considerable number of them simply don’t, and aren’t even particularly shy about it. Why is this even a question?

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  25. inhumans99 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I can picture Rudy in front of a judge, so your honor please stop the count because my client is losing, and oh yeah, I have this laptop I want to show you…lol!

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  26. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @James Joyner:

    And it really doesn’t help that election officials, including Secretaries of State, are partisans.

    Agreed, it can easily give rise to the speculation that an SoS is not administrating even-handedly.

    Our process just isn’t very transparent.

    “Transparent” is one of those buzz words that has a wide range of meanings to different people under different conditions.

    For example, the engineer in me would like to see the process (at the county level and precinct level) detailed with a flow chart, ideally every step and stage for a ballot or a voter that arrives at a polling place or arrives at the county board of elections. Such a flowchart would track the entire path from the voter marking the ballot to how and when that ballot would be included in the final result at the county level as well as certification of final results by the State.

    But I suspect that detail is not what you consider transparency.

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  27. Michael Cain says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t know the mechanics but lots of states have done this to good effect.

    Although most of them are closer to bipartisan rather than nonpartisan. Colorado has a twisted selection process, but the Democrats and Republicans get better treatment than any other official parties, and the majority and minority leaders of both houses of the state legislature get a substantial say.

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  28. DrDaveT says:

    Priceless advice for The Donald. Hilarious if you’re from the DC area.

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  29. An Interested Party says:

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