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Editorial: No room for doubts about legitimate ballot counting in U.S. presidential election

The significance of the election will be lost if the will of the public expressed through a strict process of vote counting and tabulation is not respected. The true value of U.S. democracy is being challenged at this very moment.


In the U.S. presidential election, the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, has edged closer to winning the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. “After a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning,” Biden said emphatically.


In response, President Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, claimed that fraud had been committed, saying that he has had the upper hand in several close-contested states, but the leads had been overturned since the counting of mail-in ballots. He has not provided specific evidence.


Trump’s camp has filed lawsuits demanding vote counts in swing states be suspended because of alleged unfair restrictions on the activities of campaign observers overseeing the process of counting mail-in ballots.


Trump has long argued that postal voting is a hotbed of fraud. With the high possibility of his defeat, Trump is apparently trying to overturn the election results by engaging in a court battle over the validity of postal voting.


Trump’s early leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and other swing states were overturned at the final stage after the release of tallies of mail-in ballots, which were cast by many Democratic Party supporters.


The opening and counting of mail-in votes had to be delayed because of the amount of work involved in removing the ballots from envelopes and verifying the identity of voters. However, mail-in voting was certainly effective in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus at polling stations.


Even if it takes time to complete the vote-counting process, the basic principle of democratic elections is to count all the votes that have been cast properly. There is no room for even a president to raise objections.


The last presidential poll was also a closely contested race like this time, with Trump securing a narrow margin in almost all swing states to get an upset victory in the election. The Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called Trump to congratulate him on his victory immediately after her defeat was reported.


Trump’s attitude this time runs counter to the tradition of presidential elections. The prolonged court battle and political vacuum could destabilize international politics and the global economy. Trump should recognize the importance of his responsibilities.


In the 2000 presidential poll, a dispute over vote counting in the state of Florida went all the way to the Supreme Court and took more than a month to be resolved. As a result, the decision by the judiciary on the presidency drew strong criticism from inside and outside the United States.


The bitter history of such a futile legal battle must not be repeated.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 7, 2020.

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