Gov. DeSantis plays with dynamite by suggesting popular vote be thrown out

OpEd of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Dan Sweeney, Steve Bousquet and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Published by the SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL, NOV 10, 2020 

Summary: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is recommending a disastrous misuse of power by suggesting that the Republican-led Pennsylvania and Michigan legislatures throw out the votes and elect their own slate of electors — presumably to re-elect President Trump.

Donald J. Trump lost the election, but he won Florida. Whether you like the result or not, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his bully pulpit get a good deal of credit for it.

By helping deliver the state’s 29 electoral votes, DeSantis repaid a huge debt to Trump, whose tweeted support for DeSantis basically propelled the then-obscure congressman into the governor’s office two years ago by a tiny margin of victory.

Now DeSantis, without proof, has gone over the edge by refusing to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect and promoting the baseless claim that Democrats stole the election from Trump. No other governor in America is rattling the public’s faith in democracy so shamelessly, when people are desperate for Biden’s stable, sane leadership.

On Laura Ingraham’s Fox show, DeSantis called on residents of Pennsylvania and Michigan to contact their state legislators and ask them to override the popular vote and install two slates of presidential electors loyal to Trump “if they’re not following the law.”

 “I would exhaust every option to make sure we have a fair count,” DeSantis said.

Incredibly, DeSantis called on those two states to override the voters’ will even after Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania, Sen. Jake Corman and Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, said they could not do it under any circumstances.

 “The only and exclusive way that presidential electors can be chosen in Pennsylvania is by the popular vote,” they wrote in an Oct. 19 op-ed in Pennsylvania newspapers. “The legislature has no hand in this process whatsoever.”

How has the count been unfair? DeSantis owes us an explanation. Yes, Trump has every legal right to challenge the results of an election, but he must follow the law, and that means providing evidence, affidavits and witnesses.

DeSantis, rumored to be interested in his own run for president in 2024, is obviously pandering to the Trump base, which remains a vital force in Florida politics. But he’s playing with political dynamite. He’s recommending a disastrous misuse of power that Florida narrowly averted 20 years ago during five weeks of recounts and lawsuits between George W. Bush and Al Gore. It ended with a 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld Bush’s 537-vote victory in Florida.

During that 2000 recount, the speaker of the Florida House, Tom Feeney, insisted that the Legislature pick electors for Bush. But his Senate counterpart, fellow Republican John McKay, strongly resisted such a move, knowing it would set a dangerous precedent. A cautious McKay, realizing he had only one chance to get it right, stalled long enough for the nation’s highest court to decide the election.

DeSantis, who demands a “fair count,” worked tirelessly the past two years to make it all but impossible for convicted felons who’ve served their time to cast ballots in this election. Even after voters passed Amendment 4, he used the Legislature and courts to keep more than 1 million past lawbreakers from voting by requiring their full payment of decades-old court fines and fees.

Contrast DeSantis’ post-election strategy with that of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — no admirer of Trump — who over the weekend congratulated Biden on Twitter and said: “Now is the time to heal deep wounds. Many are counting on you to lead the way.”

DeSantis, who faces re-election in 2022, isn’t alone. Both of Florida’s U.S. senators, Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, are part of this charade. Rubio, also up for re-election in 2022, tweeted: “Transparently count every legally cast vote & allow courts to decide claims of irregularities or fraud on the basis of evidence.”

“The voters get to decide who the President is,” Scott tweeted.

That’s true. They did. They chose Biden.

Two years ago, in the race for governor, DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum by just 32,463 votes out of 8 million-plus. Democrats were distraught and disgusted. But even though it was extremely close and their guy lost, Democrats did not accuse DeSantis of stealing the election. The only cries of “Fraud!” came from Scott, who won.

Image Credits: John Raoux/AP