- BBC World News
Hours after the polls closed in last week’s US elections, when the votes were still being counted, President Donald Trump declared himself the winner, denounced fraud, without providing evidence, and announced that he would go “to court. Supreme “to dispute the results.
For many, it was a bad memory of exactly 20 years ago: George W. Bush went to court to challenge the vote count and a court decision was the one that gave him the victory against the Democrat Al Gore.
However, drawing parallels between the two processes can be misleading.
The disputes for the 2000 elections were reduced to a single state, Florida, where only a few hundred votes separated the two candidates.
Now, on the contrary, Trump has filed lawsuits in several states and, in addition, the difference in votes with his rival Joe Biden is proportionally greater.
What happened in 2000?
In one of the narrowest and most controversial votes in US history, Democratic Vice President Al Gore faced Bush, the Republican governor of Texas and the son of a former president.
Polls had suggested the race would be closed.
As the night wore on, it became clear that the outcome depended on Florida and the 25 votes it provided for the Electoral College (the system the United States uses to elect its president in which the winner must reach at least 270 votes out of 538).
As the ballots were counted, the US media initially projected the status for Gore.
However, when the counts advanced, they retracted, claiming that the result was too close to predict.
Hours later, they projected that Bush had won Florida, prompting Gore to acknowledge his defeat.
However, it soon emerged that the voting had been so close that it was impossible to project a winner, prompting Gore to retract his concession.
On election night, Bush led by 1,784 votes, so due to the narrow margin, an automatic recount was called which began the next day.
The count reduced the margin to 327 votes.
Gore’s campaign then called for manual counts in individual counties, which developed amid many legal disputes.
With the nation’s eyes on Florida, the news networks ran images of poll workers examining the ballots of the day, famous for being sometimes wrongly punched in voting machines of the day.
Due to these problems, sometimes the option they had voted for was not clear and, in other cases, the machine had made a line on the ballot, but had not punched it, which made the count more complicated.
The confusion was widely discussed by the top attorneys in the country and across the nation.
Some Republican supporters in Florida staged a violent protest in Miami, calling for the count to be stopped.
Although the protesters claimed to be “local,” most were later identified as Republican aides to Congress in Washington DC.
It became known as “the Brooks Brothers protest,” a nod to the elegant suits and ties worn by those involved.
The confusion ended when the Supreme Court ruled in Bush’s favor, saying the recount would cast “unnecessary and unjustified” doubts about his legitimate choice.
The final vote difference was 537 out of the nearly 6 million total cast in the state.
Gore conceded and said that while he did not agree with the court’s decision, he would abide by it.
Although he lost the election, Gore won the 48.38% of total votes nationwide versus 47.87% for Bush.
What is different now?
In the 2000 count there were ballots with problems. This time, there are only allegations of fraud, of which there is no evidence.
Trump’s legal team has filed lawsuits in at least five states. His claim without evidence is that there has been “a great fraud in our nation.”
For months, the president has sowed doubts about voting by mail, referring to electoral fraud or “rigged” elections that are, in his opinion, the only possible scenario for him to lose the elections.
Election law experts in the US argue that voter fraud in the country is rare and affects only a small number of votes.
Currently, Biden outstrips Trump by thousands or tens of thousands of votes in the disputed states.
In Georgia, Trump is behind by a few 14.000 votes, an amount small enough to warrant an automatic recount, under state law, but large enough that the end result is highly unlikely to change.
In US history there have been three changes in results through counts:
- a run for the Minnesota Senate in 2008,
- the election of a governor of Washington in 2004
- and a 2006 Vermont auditor election
But in each case the initial margin of difference was less than 500 votes.
In addition, Trump would need many more states than Georgia to reach the 270 votes needed to secure the presidency.
Lawyers who fought on both sides of the 2000 presidential recount have come out to say that this year’s situation is unparalleled.
“Basically the election is over. Nothing has come out that could plausibly affect the outcome,” he told the newspaper. USA Today David Boies, who led Gore’s legal team in 2000.
“There is no legal avenue for the Trump campaign to plausibly challenge the results in any state,” he added.
What happens now?
James Baker, the former secretary of state who led the Bush team, also opposed Trump’s initial calls to “stop the counts.”
“All our argument [en 2000] it was that the votes had already been counted and that since they had been counted, it was time to finish the process, “he said.
However, some high-ranking Republicans, including Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, have defended the president’s right to pursue legal options.
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly promised to take the case to the Supreme Court, where he has a majority of conservative justices.
But the process is not that simple.
Typically, legal teams would first have to challenge the results in state courts, although US Attorney General William Barr has also approved federal “preliminary investigations.”
However, state judges would have to accept the challenge and order a recount.
Then the Supreme Court could be asked to intervene.
However, for this, there must be legitimate federal or constitutional issues at the center of demand.
Barr wrote earlier this week that federal prosecutors could investigate “if there are clear and seemingly credible allegations of wrongdoing.”
So far, they do not exist.
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