Maybe we should do what Brazil does

Brazilian president Jair Bolsanaro lost his re-election bid last month (details here).

Despite predictions that Bolsanaro, a rightwinger, wouldn’t leave quietly, he kept quiet on election night. When some of his key allies said, “it’s over,” that took the air out of his balloon. A few supporters protested, blocked highways, and called for a coup; but no major threat to Brazilian democracy appeared, and Lula da Silva is preparing to take office on January 1, 2023.

Then, this week, Bolsanaro and his party went to court. As Wikipedia explains here,

“On 22 November, Bolsonaro and his party formally contested the election result, after an audit revealed that electronic voting machines made before 2020, which comprised 59% of machines used in the 2022 election, lacked identification numbers in their internal logs. They requested that the Superior Electoral Court invalidate the votes recorded by the affected machines, which would result in Bolsonaro being elected with 51% of the remaining valid votes. However, experts claimed that the software error did not affect the election results and pointed out that the identification numbers did appear in the physical vote records printed by the machines. On the next day the court rejected the request and fined the party R$22.9 million (US$4.3 million) for what it considered bad faith litigation.”

They were grasping at straws, the court gave them short shrift, and slapped them with a penalty for filing what the judges deemed a b.s. lawsuit. The Guardian reported the story here.

There’s no need to rehash Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 U.S. election. He went to court, too, apparently believing judges he appointed, including Supreme Court justices, are his employees. All his lawsuits were tossed, some by judges he appointed. They’re not “his” judges; they’re “our” judges.

Now let’s turn our gaze to Arizona, where Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor, announced before the election she wouldn’t accept the results if she lost. On Thursday, November 23, 2022, she sued Maricopa County election officials. That’s where two-thirds of Arizona’s population lives, and was the scene of raucous Trumper protests in 2020, and then a GOP-sponsored sham “audit” of 2020 ballots run by a Trump-supporting election conspiracist last year.

As Raw Story notes here, in the 2022 election, there were problems with printers at some Maricopa County polling sites that “resulted in some confusion.” Voters were told to drop their ballots in a special drawer, or could sign out and go to another polling site. It turned out that 146 people left polling sites without signing out, went to other sites, and were issued provisional ballots the county has “promised to review and count.”

As the count currently stands, Katie Hobbs defeated Lake by 17,116 votes. There’s no way 146 votes will change that result, even if they all voted for Lake, and their votes weren’t counted — neither of which is likely true. Her lawyers also argue the problems caused some frustrated voters to leave without voting, but if true, that’s a choice they made. And Lake also has no way of knowing who they would’ve voted for.

The issues in Maricopa County are similar to those in Brazil. The only thing that matters is who the voters elected to be governor. Sometimes election officials have to work through mishaps and technical glitches to determine the result, but the election system is designed to handle this. The position taken by Lake, and other Republican election challengers, is that an election must be perfect or it’s invalid; but that’s not practical, possible, reasonable, nor the law.

Bolsonaro was thrown out of court within 24 hours, and fined. It may take longer to throw Lake out of court, but unless she has a valid argument under the law as it is, she should be fined, too. They all should. Judges need to stamp out efforts to weaponize courts against our election system, which are nonetheless less than attacks on our democracy.

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