GOP Senator Proposes Bill That Would Discount Most Absentee and Mail-in Ballots

A new bill proposed by Republican Sen. Rick Scott is “entirely unworkable,” Slate reported Thursday evening, but demonstrates the GOP’s intense desire to make sure millions of votes aren’t counted in the general election by severely restricting the time frame during which they can be tallied.

The Orwellian-named “Help America Vote Act of 2020,” which Scott proposed Thursday, would help to codify President Donald Trump’s desire, stated last week, to ensure that the preliminary tally of votes on Election Day will count as the final vote count in the election.

The preliminary count would leave out absentee ballots and a record number of mail-in ballots, which nearly half of voters plan to either send to election officials or place in a drop box before Election Day, according to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll conducted earlier this month.

The proposal, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl explains:

would require that mail-in ballots be counted within 24 hours of when voting closes on Election Day. Scott’s proposed legislation would also prevent mail-in ballots received prior to Election Day from being processed and counted until the morning of Nov. 3, contradicting state election statutes across the country including one that he signed when he was governor of Florida. Basically, the bill would move back the date by which votes can start to be counted and move up the date by which the count must end. This would limit the count to a single less-than-48-hour window, shortening the count in some cases by weeks.

“Any conflicting state laws would be preempted,” Chris Hartline, communications director for Scott, told Slate — including rules in the senator’s own home state of Florida, where the counting of votes can legally begin 22 days before Election Day.

Officials would have about 48 hours to tally all the votes, but Scott’s proposal includes no funding that would help states make this possible by hiring more poll workers or providing them with personal protective equipment. The bill would shorten the time during which officials generally have to count votes by several weeks, and would leave out many absentee voters, who made up more than 17% of voters in 2016 and more than 20% in previous years.

Tallying every vote within 24 hours of polls closing would be “impossible” in many states, legal scholar Richard L. Hasen told Slate.

Critics on social media expressed shock at Scott’s blatant attempt to leave millions of American voters out of the democratic process.

“I’m hung up on this stuff not because I necessarily think they’ll succeed — the more people vote, the harder it will be for them to nullify — but because the attempt should be, in itself, completely disqualifying,” tweeted Seth D. Michaels, communications official for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Scott proposed the legislation on the same day that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in an interview with Fox News, dismissed the notion that Republicans would not allow for a peaceful transition of power, as Trump said this week, by saying he would accept whatever decision the U.S. Supreme Court — not the majority of U.S. voters — reached.

Such sentiments “betray a lack of confidence in Trump’s ability to win,” tweeted journalist Adam Serwer. “No idea if they are right; but they wouldn’t be saying things like this if they thought he was in good shape.”

While Scott’s bill is a “nonstarter,” as Jeremy Stahl wrote at Slate, because of the Democratic-controlled House, “it shows you exactly where the GOP’s head is at with 40 days left to go before the last votes are cast.”