Count every vote, no matter how long it takes

Published 12:48 pm Friday, November 6, 2020

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Nearly seven in 10 Americans have said the 2020 presidential race is the most important election of their lifetime.
Voters have been offered a clear choice. Each candidate has very different views and policies that will forever shape the future of our nation.
With so much at stake, we must take the time to ensure all votes are counted. Whether casting a vote in person or by mail-in ballot, every voice deserves to be heard.
President Trump recently said, “It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on Nov. 3, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate and I don’t believe that that’s by our laws.”
This could not be further from the truth. There is nothing inappropriate about taking the time to count all votes legally cast, nor is there anything in our electoral laws that requires a winner to be declared on Election Day. And I want to emphasize that voting by mail is safe and secure.
Let’s look at history and precedent:
The Constitution guarantees the right to vote, not the right to a quick outcome. The Constitution does not mandate the timing of election results nor the manner in which votes are cast (indeed votes were often cast by voice in the 19th century), though its amendments stipulate that voting rights cannot be denied based on race, sex, or past condition of servitude.
As Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black stated in Wesberry v. Sanders, (1964): “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”
Elections aren’t always determined on Election Day. While voters today have grown accustomed to learning the winner of an election within hours of polls closing, we only have to look back to the 2000 presidential election to remember that it wasn’t until December 12, after recounting Florida ballots and a Supreme Court ruling, that we knew the outcome.
And prior to 1848, states didn’t even hold the presidential election on the same day, inevitably delaying the outcome until all states had voted.
We have a long, successful history of using mail-in ballots. While it’s projected that as much as 50% or more of all 2020 votes will be cast by absentee ballot, a record to be sure, mail-in ballots have been widely and successfully used in past elections. In the 2016 presidential election, for example, nearly 1 in 4 ballots were cast by mail, including 633,592 absentee ballots cast by members of our military stationed overseas and Americans living abroad.
We owe it to the American people to get this right.
That’s why I joined with 40 other former elected officials, former Cabinet secretaries, retired military officials, and civic leaders from both sides of the aisle to launch the National Council on Election Integrity. We are committed to defending the integrity of the 2020 election and to ensuring that every American’s vote is counted, no matter the times it takes.
Our country successfully held elections in the midst of the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Great Depression, and two world wars. There is no doubt in my mind that we can do so again in 2020.
(Bill Frist is heart and lung transplant surgeon, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and host of the podcast “A Second Opinion, Rethinking American Health.”)

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