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The Republican Candidates Who Say Counting Votes Is ‘Stealing Elections’

In tight races across the country, some Republican candidates have sought to create a narrative without evidence that their wins are being stolen from them.

Gideon Resnick11.14.18 2:36 PM ET

As a number of races have yet to be called throughout the country, a number of Republican candidates in close contests have said that standard vote-counting procedures are an effort by Democrats to steal elections.

This has been most visible in Florida, where a messy ballot process and a state-mandated machine recount have complicated a razor-thin Senate race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (The state’s gubernatorial race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum is also under recount, though the initial margin there is larger for DeSantis.)

The senate election recount has involved lawsuits and questions about how many provisional and mail-in ballots were determined invalid because of signature discrepancies. It’s even possible that a poor ballot design in liberal Broward County—where there were a lot of undervotes—could cost Nelson the race.

Gov. Scott announced on Wednesday that he will recuse himself from certifying the results of his own election race, but he has been especially vocal in levelling baseless claims that Nelson and the Democratic Party are trying to “steal the election.” President Trump has further fanned those flames, tweeting that “an honest vote count is no longer possible.”

While Florida and its beleaguered vote-counting process has taken the most heat from Republicans eager to craft a stolen-vote narrative, other candidates in close contests have similarly tried to undermine the vote count by framing it as fraudulent.

Republican Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA), who is in a close uncalled contest for California’s 45th congressional district, has reportedly charged in new fundraising emails that the Democrats are trying to steal her seat. Her opponent Democrat Katie Porter has taken a slim lead in the Orange County contest as provisional and mail-in ballots—which tend to be counted later—have favored Democrats.

In another close race for California’s 39th congressional district, Republican Young Kim said her opponent Gil Cisneros’ campaign has “been desperate to influence and alter the outcome of this race by harassing and intimidating vote counters in Orange County.”

The statement goes on to claims that “Those nefarious actions reflect a campaign that knows a majority of voters cast their ballots electing Young Kim, and as a result will do anything in their desperate effort to change the results.”

That race has tightened from about a three-point margin in Kim’s favor to a narrow lead for the Republican of less than half a percentage point. There are an estimated 3.6 million ballots left to count statewide—and the vote totals don’t need to be certified until Dec. 7.

In New Mexico, meanwhile, Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell appeared on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show over the weekend to claim that there were “over 100 documented complaints” about her election in the state’s 2nd congressional district.

Early results last Tuesday indicated that she led Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, but more than 8,000 absentee ballots still hadn’t been tallied in Doña Ana, where Torres Small is based. That eventual count put the Democrat over the top and with even more ballots recently counted, her lead has expanded to roughly 3,539 votes. Herrell has not yet conceded and has instead sought to impound absentee ballots in court.

Finally, in a more complicated situation in Maine, Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin has filed a lawsuit claiming that the use of ranked-choice voting—a process approved by state voters—violates the U.S. Constitution.

He is believed to have a narrow lead against Democratic candidate Jared Golden, but since neither of them garnered a majority of votes last Tuesday the state must now consider the second or third choices in their ranked-vote process. Golden could now potentially win, given the presence of independent candidates who were the first choice of some voters. Should the Democratic candidate have been the second or third choice of those voters, he could end up winning the close race.

Yet the “stolen election” narrative hasn’t been solely used by Republicans.

In a speech at the National Action Network conference on Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—fresh off a win in a state that performed terribly for Democrats on Election Day—said that if Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams doesn’t win her election, it means it was stolen.

“If Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it,” Brown said. “It’s clear. I say that publicly. It’s clear.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who only recently resigned as Georgia’s secretary of state, narrowly leads Abrams—though the race has yet to be called.

Kemp’s office did purge 1.5-million registered individuals from the state voter rolls as well as preside over enforcing an exact-match signature law that disproportionately impacted African-American voters. He also distanced himself from a plan to close voting precincts in a majority African-American county in Georgia.

The intended purpose of those laws are ostensibly to prevent voter fraud, though because they end up having a disproportionately negative effect on minority voters, the processes have led to accusations that they are simply efforts at voter suppression.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered that Georgia create a hotline where voters can check whether their provisional ballots were counted and find out why they were not. The judge also ruled that Georgia must not certify the gubernatorial results before 5 p.m. on Friday.

It was also reported that prior to the election, Kemp’s office was informed about a “massive vulnerability” in the state’s voter-registration system.

Instead of immediately addressing those concerns, he turned around and announced that Georgia Democrats were under investigation for hacking.