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It was clear leading up to election day that patience was going to be a virtue. The mechanics of conducting an election during a pandemic, and the record number of people using absentee ballots, meant the process for counting legal votes would take some time. And it has.
It’s also increasingly clear, now a week and a half after election day, that Joe Biden has secured enough electoral votes to safely be considered America’s president-elect. That’s not a political statement, feeling or impatient conclusion. It’s a fact based on existing vote totals and Electoral College math.
While many Republicans have danced around this reality, Maine’s recently re-elected Sen. Susan Collins has been one of the few elected Republicans in Washington to acknowledge it.
“First, I would offer my congratulations to President-elect Biden on his apparent victory – he loves this country, and I wish him every success,” Collins said in a statement on Monday. “Presidential transitions are important, and the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern on January 20th.”
In her statement, Collins also referenced the ability of President Donald Trump and others to challenge results in certain states. That too is a fact. Existing processes and laws allow Trump and his campaign to pursue legal challenges and recounts, as they are currently doing. Could those change the outcome? Yes, but it’s very unlikely.
Some other facts include the mounting legal setbacks for Trump and his team, with a judge in Michigan dismissing one filing as “inadmissible hearsay within hearsay.” Trump has had some minor victories in court, but those have not demonstrated widespread fraud or impacted existing vote counts that have Biden ahead. A group of election infrastructure experts — including an official from the Trump administration’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — released a statement on Thursday calling the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history.”
“I know that many are eager to have certainty right now,” Collins added Monday. “While we have a clear direction, we should continue to respect that process. I urge people to be patient. The process has not failed our country in more than 200 years, and it is not going to fail our country this year.”
It remains paramount that Americans respect the process and each other as recounts get underway and legal challenges continue to be adjudicated. It’s troubling to see poll results showing that 70 percent of Republicans don’t think the election was free and fair. We expect that the process will continue to expose the hollowness of Trump’s claims, and hope our fellow Americans follow that process, not just the inflammatory allegations that have been made prematurely.
We have little patience, however, for the unsubstantiated claims themselves, which the Trump team is trying to prop up with hundreds of pages of sworn statements that don’t actually prove the widespread fraud that the president has asserted. At least one other supposedly major accusation of ballot tampering has reportedly been withdrawn. State and local election officials, including Republicans, have offered reasonable explanations for alleged irregularities.
Trump has undermined his own case from the very beginning by asserting fraud first, with his team then working to demonstrate evidence after the fact. It’s totally backwards. Some lawyers representing Trump have even backed away from widespread fraud suggestions in court.
“Many of the GOP’s litigation concerns are meritorious in principle,” Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a former Republican election lawyer, wrote in The Washington Post in September. “But the president’s inflammatory language undercuts the claim that Republicans seek merely to uphold statutory safeguards needed to validate the results’ credibility.”
We understand that many Americans are trying to sift through misinformation and to maintain confidence in a free and fair election. For some, that may mean letting the ongoing legal challenges and recounts play out before recognizing Biden as president-elect. But we have little patience for bad arguments that lack proof or misconstrue what counts as proof.