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Election continues — until the counting is done

November 13, 2018

The 2018 midterm election took place a week ago, but it certainly is not over.

In Florida and Georgia, crucial races remain undecided, and in Mississippi, there is a runoff for a U.S. Senate seat. Even in New Mexico, what had seemed to be a victory for a GOP newcomer in the 2nd Congressional District ended up being called a win for Democratic first-time candidate Xochitl Torres Small.

But Yvette Herrell, the Republican who lost the race to replace Steve Pearce (himself a losing candidate for governor) indicated on Fox News that she isn’t persuaded she lost. We don’t blame any candidate in a close race for wanting to double check the results, but Torres Small is clearly the winner.

Losing candidates do no favors to democracy when making unfounded claims about the fairness of the electoral process (the key word here is unfounded). Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office show Torres Small won by 3,359 votes once all the absentee and provisional ballots were counted.

The outcome would have been clearer if people waiting for results had realized the newly appointed Doña Ana County clerk had almost 8,000 outstanding absentee ballots that weren’t included in early election night totals. Usually, they are. When several news organizations and pollsters predicted Herrell had won, they were assuming that absentee ballots had been counted.

Add to the mix the sheer volume of absentee ballots; perhaps from 2,000 absentee vots to 3,000 absentee votes were expected, not the nearly 8,000 absentee votes that came in.

However, independent journalist Heath Haussamen understood the absentee ballots from Doña Ana County were outstanding — and well into election night, he reported enough ballots remained uncounted that the race could not be called. He was correct. Torres Small was smart, too, by refusing to concede even after her opponent had given a victory speech.

The result? No fraud. No “surprise” votes out of nowhere. No interference in the election. Nothing untoward.

There simply were more voters than anticipated and confusion in how the results were tallied. For Herrell to claim otherwise without proof insults voters. It also damages the trust people have in elections.

That is dangerous.

Meanwhile, the president and leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, is tweeting about possible voter fraud in Arizona, Florida and Georgia. Again, he has no proof to present.

Granted, our system of voting in the United States is messy and complicated.

In states where there is voting by mail, as in Arizona, and the elections are close, it takes a long time to complete the count. Almost a week after it appeared GOP candidate Martha McSally had been elected senator, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was declared Monday to be the winner. That’s because Arizona counted all its votes.

Florida is its own mess, a state where certain counties seem to be run incompetently. That is not fraud, but such ineptitude does need to be addressed for future elections, including the 2020 presidential race

Recounts for U.S. Senate, governor and agricultural commissioner races have been ordered. That’s the law in Florida when vote totals fall within a certain margin. Lawsuits have been filed. GOP candidates ahead on election night do not want all the votes recounted.

Trump is not helping the situation, tweeting uninformed comments such as this one: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

No, Florida must go with its state law, which requires recounts in certain situations.

In Georgia, something entirely different has been going on, with the secretary of state in charge of the election also running for governor.

GOP candidate Brian Kemp has systematically been purging voter rolls, seemingly intent on creating an electorate more likely to vote his way.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that in 2017, some 668,000 voters were purged. Not all of those voters were dead or had moved away.

Kemp also is tired of counting votes. He has resigned as secretary of state, declared himself the winner and wants counting stopped — there is a chance that Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams will end up close enough that the two go to a runoff, which happens in Georgia if neither candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes. That’s just the Georgia process, nothing to rail against.

As hard as it is to wait for final results, politicians need to stop making accusations without proof and let votes be counted.

In Arizona, despite the close election, GOP officials allowed the process continue without outcry — they are setting the standard.

Trump and others should do the same. That includes Yvette Herrell, who has lost her race for Congress.

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