Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

Let the Votes Be Counted

The New York Times

Nov. 4

Count all the votes.

This shouldn’t be a remotely controversial proposition in a representative democracy. A complete and accurate count is the only way to determine the will of the people who cast ballots.

During even typical election years, the process can take days. It takes longer in the highest-turnout election in generations — and that’s before factoring in a pandemic that has driven tens of millions of Americans to vote by mail and has made it far harder to carry out even basic tasks, like vote counting, that involve many people being in enclosed spaces for extended periods.

A president who cared about upholding American democracy would do all he could to drive this point home with the public. He would set the example by reassuring the people that the nation’s time-honored electoral system is working as it always has — state by state, county by county, precinct by precinct.

President Trump, as usual, is doing the opposite. As growing vote totals in several key battleground states favored Joe Biden, Mr. Trump began casting doubt on the veracity of the counts.

Shortly after midnight, the president said falsely on Twitter that the election was being stolen.

A few hours later, in a rambling, middle-of-the-night speech from the East Room of the White House, Mr. Trump accused “a very sad group of people” of trying to “disenfranchise” those who had voted for him. He threatened to force the election into the Supreme Court. “We want all voting to stop,” he said. “We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. OK?”

“This is a fraud on the American public,” Mr. Trump continued. “This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

The speech was one of the lowest, most disgraceful moments in an administration filled to the brim with strong competition. It was also self-contradicting. In the same breath that he cast suspicion on counts in states that appeared to be turning against him, he welcomed more counting in states where his totals looked like they were growing.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump was at it again, compounding the damage with rageful, misleading tweets.

“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!” he wrote in a tweet that Twitter flagged, along with several others he has sent, for containing “misleading” content.

Mr. Trump is right that the polls were off — by a lot, in some key states. But none of this is “very strange.” Neither candidate won the election on Tuesday night. That determination won’t be made by the candidates’ wishes or the media projections. It will be made by the voters and the workers who count their ballots. States aren’t even required to certify their count until Dec. 8.

In the meantime, there are no “surprise ballot dumps” that make votes “magically disappear.” It’s normal for vote totals to change, especially in the hours and days after polls close. When one or the other candidate pulls ahead, it’s not “flipping” the result, because there is no result yet to flip.

The irony is that the count could have proceeded more quickly in several battleground states, like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, had Republican lawmakers there followed their counterparts in many other states and allowed for mail ballots to be opened and processed before Election Day. But despite repeated pleas for them to do so, they refused. Now Mr. Trump and his Republican allies are using that refusal to claim that votes are being counted too late. It’s as though they defunded the Fire Department and then got mad when their house burned down.

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign announced it would seek a recount in Wisconsin, where Joe Biden leads by a little more than 20,000 votes, or less than 1 percent. That is Mr. Trump’s right, although he will have to pay $3 million out of pocket for it, and statewide recounts only change the margin, on average, by fewer than 300 votes.

If anyone has reason to be upset, it is the hundreds of thousands of voters around the country whose mail-in ballots were never delivered to election offices. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington ordered the Postal Service to search 12 postal processing facilities in 15 states for any remaining undelivered ballots, which were generally cast overwhelmingly in favor of Democratic candidates. The Postal Service ignored the order, saying it would continue on its own inspection schedule.

It is understandable that Americans want to know quickly and clearly the outcome of the presidential election. But that doesn’t change the fact that it takes time to count 150 million votes. Across the country, election workers and administrators are committed to doing their job and are working long hours to ensure that every ballot is counted.

No matter how much the nation has come to expect this sort of behavior from Mr. Trump, he always manages to exceed expectations. That doesn’t make it better. To the contrary, it is extremely dangerous. Mr. Trump has for years fanned the flames of rage among his supporters and flooded American society with disinformation.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump tweeted, “They are finding Biden votes all over the place — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our Country!”

Yes, Mr. President. That’s what happens when you count the ballots. It’s up to the rest of us, and especially you, to stay calm and let the electoral process play out as it does every four years. In the end, both parties will have won some and lost some. That’s not fraud. It’s democracy.



America’s challenge on election night and beyond


Nov. 4

All day Election Day people waited. They waited to vote, they waited for polls to close, they waited for results.

We’re all going to have to wait a bit longer for definitive results.

Determining winners in the presidential election, the battle to control the U.S. Senate and key Long Island congressional races are intricate dances this year. Past experience, perhaps most obviously from the 2000 presidential election, illustrates the wisdom in being deliberate and certain before calling a race. The extraordinary number of absentee ballots and early voters have complicated the counting. Trust the process and wait for the results.

But in the early morning hours Wednesday, President Donald Trump already was sowing doubt, first tweeting: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election.” Twitter marked the tweet as potentially misleading. But it’s more than misleading. It’s dangerous and wrong.

Then it got worse. When Trump spoke from the White House, he lied, outrageously and irresponsibly telling the American people that he had won the election, that the proper counting of votes was “a fraud.” But no one has won the election and millions of votes have yet to be counted. And, despite what Trump suggested, those who voted for former Vice President Joe Biden did not “disenfranchise” those who voted for Trump.

The process works. Votes are still being counted. Trump has dangerously challenged the very heart of our democratic process. He may win the final tally but he can’t decree himself the winner.

Biden emerged with a very different message, noting rightly that, “It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election. That’s the decision of the American people.”

Indeed it is. Throughout the evening Tuesday, major news organizations were cautious before making calls. But some conclusions became clear. Turnout was high, which was welcome news everywhere. But the presidential election wasn’t going to be a landslide. It seemed Trump was doing better than expected among older Hispanic voters, although it pays to be cautious about making broad conclusions about ethnic groups, especially ones with many distinct characteristics. And predictions and polling could turn out to be off.

Meanwhile, locally, it seemed GOP turnout was strong. But we won’t know much until absentee ballots are counted, and that won’t start until next week.

It now looks like the presidential race could come down to Midwest states where final counts could take several more days. Despite Trump’s wrongheaded rhetoric, we must be patient. The uncertainty comes as more than 100 million votes were cast via absentee ballots and early voting, particularly because many people did not want to go to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states did not begin processing those ballots until Election Day, and others accept ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive afterward.

The nation needs calm and certainty. We have spent four years swinging wildly from crisis to crisis, and the frightening day-to-day unpredictability has left us in a vulnerable state, no matter what side of the aisle we may each lean toward.

Trump’s horrifying reaction exacerbates an already precarious situation. But the peaceful day of voting Tuesday bodes well for the American people’s reaction. Once the outcome is certain, we must find a way forward as Americans.

That’s far easier said than done. The enormous problems we face — income inequality, climate change, a troubled economy, racial inequity and, perhaps most acutely, the coronavirus pandemic, to name a few — won’t be solved in a nation that’s wracked by divisiveness, hate, and violence.

There will come a moment with definitive winners, and our focus will shift. If Biden wins this election, Trump must do what every president has done before him, and pave the way for a smooth, appropriate path for Biden to take his seat in the Oval Office. If Trump secures a second term, the result must be acknowledged as well.

Our divisions will not disappear on Wednesday, or later this week, next month, or even next year. It took time for this country to tear apart as it has, and it will take time to put it back together. That task can’t be left only to the man in the Oval Office. Each of us must do our part.

In the meantime, the nation must show patience. When the counting is done, we’ll know who will lead us — and we’ll then be able to prepare for what’s next.



COVID-19 Raises Educational Gap Learning Concerns


Nov. 5

Tidbits from two separate area school district’s board meetings should be cause for concern as we move through a school year impacted by COVID-19.

Ann Morrison, Sherman Central School principal, recently told board members that many ninth-grade students who are in need of academic intervention will be getting help in the school building. Fifty-one percent of Sherman’s ninth graders are failing one or more subjects, she said, while Mike Ginestre, Sherman superintendent, said, “The ninth grade teachers want the kids to be here in person for more than one day a week.”

In Westfield, meanwhile, Mary Rockey, elementary school principal, told board members that younger children are showing gaps in learning that leave them performing at lower than expected grade levels.

While Rockey didn’t have an exact reason for the drop-off, she said it’s likely younger students did not have a chance to master their skills before schools closed in the spring.

“My gut says they didn’t have the 12 week break that they usually have. They had close to a 30 week break,” she said.

Safety and preventing the spread of COVID-19 are important. Educating our children is just as important — and judging from the early results, our past decisions aren’t helping our children master either the basic building blocks of their education or the more advanced subject matter they must study in high school.

If more schools have similar results, we hope administrators are able to come up with a new plan that better educates children.



99.9% census claim isn’t credible

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Nov. 5

Census Bureau officials’ claim the agency was able to collect information from 99.9% of the households in America strains credibility. It would during normal times, not to mention the middle of a deadly epidemic.

If officials in several states, cities and organizations are right, the bureau simply isn’t telling the truth. In fact, some officials within it made up reports on households.

A lawsuit has been filed against the bureau by the National Urban League, the states of Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas, and assorted others with interests in the population count. According to the suit, census takers were pressured by supervisors to turn in numbers — and some complied by simply guessing how many people lived in households.

Census Bureau officials “cut many corners and made decisions that do not bear a reasonable relationship to the accomplishment of an actual enumeration,” the complaint alleges.

It adds that the bureau’s methods “are less accurate and have a profound effect on immigrants and minorities — the hard-to-count populations.”

Indeed, those classifications of people can be difficult to count accurately — but so can others, including residents of rural areas, regardless of their race or whether they are natives of the United States.

We already know the Census Bureau cut some very big corners. For example, officials cut off the process of collecting information a full month earlier than had been intended originally.

As we have noted previously, an accurate census count is important in many ways. It has a real dollars-and-cents impact on every American. It affects our representation in Congress — even how presidents are selected.

If Census Bureau officials knowingly took action that tended to make the count less accurate, they may be guilty of crimes and ought to be held accountable.

If a court finds that happened, it may be that the 2020 Census is unreliable enough that it should be discarded and a bureau with new leadership should be told to try again next year.



Trump’s claim of victory a danger to democracy

The Auburn Citizen

Nov. 5

As elections officials in several U.S. states continued their work of counting hundreds of thousands of ballots early Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump spoke from the White House to declare that he had won the election and called the continuation of the ballot count “a fraud on the American public.”

He hadn’t won the election, of course, because several key states were still too close to call, and Trump’s unsubstantiated claim of fraud, while not surprising, was grossly irresponsible. Votes have always been counted well past election night in this country, and there have been several presidential elections in which it took days and even weeks to arrive at the final result.

The important thing now is counting all of the votes and making sure all of the counts are accurate, and elected leaders from both parties — including Republican Congressman John Katko — need to come together with a unified message on that front. The close vote totals in this deeply divided country make this a potentially volatile time for our nation, but permanent damage to our democracy can be avoided if we have enough leaders willing to act responsibly.

As the process continues to play out, we also hope the public will be on the alert for disinformation. Whether through ignorance or willful intent to deceive, there is an awful lot of bad information to be found out there — especially from dubious online sources. False rumors began to spread even before Election Day, and the amount of disinformation has continued to grow since Tuesday night. With regard not only to this election but other matters of importance, make sure that what you’re learning has been verified from reputable sources.