The Note: Uneasy questions settle over post-election Washington

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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The first full week after the midterm elections, which promised to provide some answers, comes to a close with plenty of unease to go around.

There’s unease because of unfinished business in Florida and Georgia. Democrats in both states are balancing legitimate gripes over voting rights with how and when to respect the legitimacy of election results.

There’s unease inside the Russia investigation. President Donald Trump is free to offer his rage while Congress leaves town without having acted to protect Robert Mueller — and with a new attorney general in charge, at least for now.

There’s unease inside the White House. The first lady’s ire is enough to get a senior staffer reassigned — though just barely — and promises of loyalty and longevity are meaningless if the president is in a certain mood.

There’s also unease inside the victorious House Democratic caucus. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is no closer — though not necessarily any further — from securing the votes to become speaker of the House for a second time.

The elections settled plenty of small arguments. But the big ones — which have long dominated both parties — remain.

President Donald Trump, his wife Melania Trump, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

When it is all said and done, it is likely Democrats will have netted just shy of 40 seats in the House for next year.

With each passing day this week, they flipped more seats as vote tallies were finalized.

As of Thursday they had turned 35 congressional districts from red to blue, and they led in three additional outstanding races.

The total number helps them make the case that the country is asking for a check on the Trump administration, though Republicans’ big victories in the Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana Senate races give them a counter and strong footing in Washington all the same.

However, while some voters — in red and blue states — sent their incumbents packing, Florida feels like a wild card. The shadow and uncertainty the president cast over the vote count, plus the messy legal battles, stories of damaged ballots and failing machines, surely left many Floridians wondering if their vote even counted.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talks to journalists before heading into a Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Nov. 14, 2018, in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talks to journalists before heading into a Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Nov. 14, 2018, in Washington, DC.

The TIP with Adam Kelsey

On Thursday, a portrait of two vote-counting efforts:

In Florida, Palm Beach County election supervisor Susan Bucher railed against outdated equipment that encountered mechanical issues as she described the “heroic effort” made by her staff to meet the 3 p.m. machine recount deadline — one that ultimately fell short.

While in Maine, officials in the secretary of state’s office shared a laugh with reporters as they described the minor inconvenience of using “find and replace” on an Excel spreadsheet because some entries for 2nd Congressional District Democrat Jared Golden’s name contained a comma and others did not. The minor hiccup soon passed as they input the correct ballot information into a computer program that vaulted Golden to a ranked-choice-aided victory.

If there wasn’t already enough evidence out of Florida and Georgia, where debate about matching signatures and confusing ballots rage on, Thursday’s contrasting scenes offered greater proof that many states, and perhaps the country as a whole, are in dire need of updated election technology. As for a solution? Look no further than Estonia.

Though the specter of meddling, Russian or otherwise, could forever loom, the United States may be wise to follow the lead of the booming Eastern European nation, where internet-based ballots have been offered since 2005 and are now utilized by nearly one-third of all voters.

PHOTO: Election officials work at counting machines as they are calibrated before a recount at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office, Nov. 11, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla.Joe Skipper/Getty Images
Election officials work at counting machines as they are calibrated before a recount at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office, Nov. 11, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Friday’s episode features Florida’s move to a manual recount and ABC News’ Stephanie Wash explains what happens next. A lawsuit alleges Dartmouth College allowed an “Animal House” culture, according to ABC News’ Linsey Davis. And, four elite military members are accused of killing one of their own, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz tells us. https://bit.ly/2M7OS5c

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast: How Our Forecasts Did in 2018. With the election more than a week in the rearview mirror, Nate sits down for a post-mortem installment of “Model Talk” on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast. He looks back at where things went right, where things could be improved and the state of polling during the 2018 election. He also answers questions from listeners, such as whether he will have to rebuild the model from scratch in 2020. https://53eig.ht/2QIMFLC

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump participates in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act signing ceremony at 11:30 a.m.
  • Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven individuals at 1 p.m., including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, football player Roger Staubach, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, deceased American icons Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth, and Miriam Adelson, the philanthropist and wife of billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.
  • Trump meets with Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration, at 3:15 p.m.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services holds its eighth annual conference featuring leaders from USCIS, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Executive Office for Immigration Review at 9 a.m. at DHS.
  • This Week on “This Week”: The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., comes to “This Week” Sunday. And the Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, with former New Jersey governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, Democratic Strategist and ABC News Contributor Stephanie Cutter, Washington Post National Correspondent Mary Jordan and National Review Executive Editor Reihan Salam, author of “Melting Pot or Civil War?: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders.”
  • The Note has a new look! Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights political analysis of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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