If the Democrats manage to capture both of Georgia’s Senate seats in its Jan. 5 runoff election, they will flip control of the Senate and Sen. Chuck Schumer will replace Sen. Mitch McConnell as majority leader. That means, of course, that they will control both houses of Congress and will be free to launch an avalanche of spending programs and undo many of the reforms achieved by the Trump Administration and GOP-controlled Senate including tax reform and the elimination of many growth-inhibiting restrictions on businesses. The way may be paved for the Green New Deal, an end to fracking and energy independence, Medicare for all, statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico adding, four new reliably-Democratic senators, an end to the filibuster, expanding the Supreme Court, cuts to the defense budget and who knows what else.

Obviously, this state election is of profound interest and importance to the rest of the nation which is why so much money and legions of campaigners are flowing into the state. But it is for Georgians alone to decide who shall be the two persons to represent their interests in the U.S. Senate and their interests should be respected. I suggested in this space recently that President Donald Trump could best serve the interests of his party and his legacy by avoiding saying or doing anything that could alienate Georgia Republicans and hurt the chances of their senate candidates, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, perhaps even by staying out of the state, simply issuing a strong endorsement of Loeffler and Perdue and leaving the campaigning and rallies to prominent regional Republicans like Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham who are more knowledgeable regarding southern politics and which of the candidates would make the best senators.

Instead, Mr. Trump held a rally in Valdosta in southern Georgia which is already reliably Republican, like most of the rest of Georgia that isn’t part of Metropolitan Atlanta where half its population lives. At the rally, Mr. Trump sounded like he was still campaigning for himself, insisting that he had won Georgia although two recounts showed that he had not and the state’s Republican governor and secretary of state had already certified the results for Joe Biden. He continued his scathing criticism of Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both supporters of his, apparently for failing to overturn the results. It was mostly about Trump and less about the critical Jan. 5 election that will determine control of the Senate. In the aftermath of the rally, some local GOP politicians repeated unproven fraud allegations and charges that the election was rigged and reportedly urged prospective voters to boycott the Jan. 5 election, a recommendation so patently stupid as to invite suggestions that they might have been Democrat plants, just pretending to be Republicans.

Seventy-seven percent of Trump supporters and over a third of all voters, according to a recent survey, say they believe that Joe Biden stole the election which they also say was marked by many irregularities, to put it politely. Skepticism regarding the integrity of our elections has persisted ever since many Democrats refused to accept the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 election victory. Whether that skepticism is warranted or not is almost beside the point. The perception alone among so many that this election was rigged does serious damage to the confidence the people in a democracy must have in the integrity of its elections. That confidence simply must be restored or we will become more like a banana republic. We cannot have another election like 2020 and reforms need to begin now. The Constitution clearly provides that elections shall be conducted as the individual state legislatures may provide for. The rules and procedures vary from state to state. They include timelines, deadlines, absentee voting procedures, verification requirements and other details. Changes to the rules, procedures and timelines are the exclusive responsibility of the legislatures, not the state executive or judicial branches and they should be followed to the letter. Any changes, including last minute changes, which should be avoided, may only be authorized by state legislative action.

The COVID-19 pandemic understandably resulted in widespread use of mailed ballots in 2020 but the Constitution still applies, pandemic or not. It is a matter of plain common sense that a huge volume of mailed ballots increases the handling and processing required and thus the chances of mishandling. On top of this, election officials and judges approved numerous last-minute changes to timelines and authentication procedures, ostensibly in an effort to ensure that all votes are counted but which nevertheless favored Democrat candidates since more Democrats voted by mail than did Republicans. But any changes for any reason are the exclusive responsibility of the state legislatures. Moreover, the rules are intended to be followed and when a ballot is submitted that fails to conform to these rules, it should not be counted regardless of what an election worker may believe was the voter’s intent.

We cannot afford another disputed election outcome like this and some state legislatures have some serious work to do to ensure that the rules are clear, that they are meticulously followed and that timelines and submission deadlines for mailed ballots are such as to ensure that that all vote counting is completed and results announced not later than the day after election day. If some states can manage to do this, certainly every state can.

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