EDITORIAL: Vote reversal unsuccessful, but ominous

York Dispatch editorial board
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

If all goes according to schedule, the key battleground states of Pennsylvania and Michigan will certify their presidential vote totals Monday.

President Donald Trump, the loser in both of those states, is hoping to muck up that schedule.

Despite falling to Democratic challenger Joe Biden by some 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania and more than 150,000 in Michigan, the Republican incumbent is doing everything in his thankfully dwindling power to overturn the will of voters in those states — and in several others he lost en route to national defeat on Nov. 3.

If the results were a little closer or Trump’s lawyers a little sharper, their efforts might have resulted in something more immediately significant than an embarrassing assault on political norms. Still, this unprecedented attack on free and fair elections is instructive. It demonstrates the work that needs to be done to ensure election results are secured by something more substantive than political conventions and faith in the lawmakers who are supposed to uphold them.

Because despite the veritable clown show that is the president’s legal team, led by personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, their failures should not obscure what they’ve attempted — and, in ways short of their ultimate goal, what they’ve achieved.

They may fall well short of securing an undeserved second term for a president that lost the popular vote by more than 6 million, but they’ve cemented the fallacy on the right that the election was somehow tainted, undermining attempts by incoming Biden to build bipartisan goodwill and fanning conspiratorial flames that will continue to singe public faith in the democratic process of voting.

That’s especially dispiriting given that the election was impressively well-run — in Pennsylvania and across the nation — amid a global pandemic and presidential efforts to discredit, if not undermine it (see: DeJoy, Louis).

In fact, the person tasked with safeguarding the vote, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Chris Krebs, called it “the most secure election in American history.” (It was this statement that put the word “former” in his title; in response, Trump fired Krebs in characteristically cowardly fashion, via Twitter.)

But the professionalism of elections officials and ballot counters hasn’t stopped a full-scale assault both pre- and post-election by Trump and his lawyers, who filed dozens of lawsuits in crucial swing states seeking to overturn ballots (often in Democratic-friendly cities) amid hazy allegations of fraud.

The majority of these suits have been thrown out of court — sometimes with great force. That was the case Saturday when Republican Pennsylvania District Court Judge Matthew Brann not only dismissed a legal attempt to overturn Biden’s victory, but lambasted Giuliani & Co. for the flimsiness of their case and ordered that it not be resubmitted.

Into this breech stepped Trump-loving Congressman Mike Kelly and seven other Pennsylvania Republicans, who filed suit Saturday arguing the state’s mail-in process is unconstitutional. They say the state’s roughly 2.5 million mail-in votes shouldn’t be counted and that Pennsylvania’s (Republican-controlled) state legislature should award the state’s 20 electoral votes.

This was always Trump’s fallback plan, particularly in Pennsylvania — to either delay certification or find some other legislative sleight of hand to steal the election from voters in favor of Republican state lawmakers. Efforts last week in Michigan and Georgia were similarly brazen and similarly unartful.

While the president spends all his non-golfing energy trying to reverse a decisive election, thousands of Americans are dying weekly from the resurgent and raging coronavirus, the Biden transition is stymied by a Trump-appointed functionary who refuses to sign necessary certification paperwork and the Republican party shrouds itself in infamy as it once again bends knee to dictatorial fantasy while turning tail on pubic duty.

Very soon after Jan. 20, 2021, work must begin to more firmly enshrine the will of voters in the letter of the law, rather than the whims of the partisan.