If Joe Biden wants to bring our country together, he should endorse President Donald Trump’s demand not only for recounts but extensive ballot reviews in at least the four states where the Democrat now leads by a whisker: Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
This statesman-like move would acknowledge that those who did not support him have legitimate concerns about ballot integrity in an election defined by the sudden and massive shift to mail-in voting. It would demonstrate Biden’s commitment to fair elections and help remove a cloud that may hang over his likely presidency.
Biden, of course, overcame significant election night deficits to eke out bare margins in those four states. On Saturday afternoon, he had a 20,500 vote lead in Arizona out of 3.25 million votes cast; in Georgia he was beating Trump by 7,000 votes out of 4.9 million cast; in Pennsylvania he enjoyed a 38,000 vote margin out of 6.65 million; and led in Wisconsin by 20,500 out of 3.24 million votes.
Sometimes, you just get lucky. But given that Biden’s margins largely came from mail-in ballots, further review is necessary before he is certified as the winner. A lot can go wrong with mail-in votes. The Washington Post reported in August that 534,000 mail-in ballots were rejected across the country in this year’s primary elections, which typically see much smaller turnouts than the record-setting general election.
This would suggest that far more ballots, the majority of which favored Democrats, were rejected this month – or perhaps should have been. Color me skeptical since we haven’t heard Democrats complain about this in a very tight race. We need to know how and why ballots were tabulated.
Before this election, Democrats and their media allies regularly attacked Republican support for voter ID laws by claiming that there was little proof of in-person fraud as opposed to absentee votes, which had traditionally favored the GOP.
They now insist that America’s elections are as pure as Caesar’s wife. To embrace that view, one must also assert that electoral politics – a field dominated by highly ambitious and often conniving figures competing in one of the few zero sum games in life (the winner gets everything and the loser nothing) – is perhaps the only human endeavor free from corruption.
The truth is we don’t know the true extent of voter fraud because we don’t look for it. Consider the 2018 election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. In the Republican primary, Mark Harris defeated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger while garnering 96 percent of Bladen County’s mail-in vote. That astonishing total was the reddest of flags.
Nevertheless, North Carolina’s Board of Elections did nothing. This criminal behavior came to light when a Harris operative engaged in additional illegal ballot harvesting in the general election, prompting his Democratic opponent to lodge a complaint, which led to a new race.
Texas is one of the few states that has made some effort to investigate voter fraud: In 2018 alone, 33 people were convicted of the crime. This August, the city council race in Paterson, N.J., was invalidated because of voter fraud.
Mail-in ballots raise a host of other concerns regarding the 2020 race. Did ineligible voters — including noncitizens, barred felons, or the dead — participate? Did people registered in multiple states cast multiple ballots, or vote in the swing state they had moved from rather than the safe state they now reside in? How many people sent in their absentee ballot and also showed up at the polls to make sure their vote counted?
Given Biden’s razor-thin margins, these questions must be asked and answered. Apart from providing clarity about the 2020 result, a thorough ballot review will build confidence about future elections by determining whether fraud and error are merely political hiccups or a cancer on our body politic.
For many Republicans, Biden’s anointment by media outlets that have savaged Trump for four years seems less like a cold-eyed reckoning of the math than a partisan move to set the terms of debate going forward.
Imagine the reverse: What if Biden had had a comfortable lead on Election Day that evaporated as the counting occurred in Republican strongholds, eventually giving Trump margin-of-error wins in key states? Would the Associated Press and CNN and all the others now be declaring Trump the winner or reporting that a long battle looms to ensure that the count was fair and accurate?
An honest accounting of the 2020 returns will not heal our nation. But Biden’s support for such an effort would provide the kind of national leadership we desperately need.
J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics. The column first appeared at RealClearWire. It is republished here with permission.