On Nov. 7, 2000 the contested election between Al Gore and George W. Bush concluded one of the most chaotic political skirmishes in U.S. history. Lawsuits, recounts and court cases would plague the rest of the year for Americans, as many are still horrified by the political unrest that would follow. Although separated by two decades, 2000 seemingly serves as a harbinger for the 2020 presidential election results, as many parameters of 2000 seem to be omnipresent this year.
As many of us quiver in stress due to the unpredictable election day results, I sit here flipping between ABC and CBS election analysis, anxiously waiting for projections to be created and electoral votes to be distributed. However, if it had been 2000, I don’t believe I would have the mental capacity to watch the race unfold.
On Nov. 7 at 7:50 p.m., NBC projected that Al Gore would win the state of Florida and its 25 electoral college votes. At this point, many were certain that George W. Bush wouldn’t be able to mount a comeback victory. However, throughout the night, many news anchors began to withdraw their initial projections, ultimately leading to a CNN statement that declared Bush the winner of Florida and the presidential race.
Although Gore initially delivered a call to President-on-deck Bush to concede, Gore redirected his surrender and demanded a recount within the state of Florida, as his opponent had only led by approximately 350 votes. Appealing the court case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, he was granted permission to recount four counties. However, chaos would ensue, as Republican activists, called upon by Roger Stone, flooded the voting tents and chanted “Voter fraud, stop the fraud!” Eventually, the riot, later known as the Brooks Brothers Riot, caused the ballot counting to come to a halt. Later, the Supreme Court ruled on Dec.12, 2000 in a five-to-four ruling that no additional counting was needed. Gore would concede without a call back to Bush.
After Bush assumed the presidency, many Americans were struck by the new priority asserted by the government: voter fraud over voter rights. This slant would carry through the next five elections, specifically the most recent two.
Let’s shift over to back to today’s presidential race. President Donald Trump has reported multiple times that he will not concede if he is defeated due to voter fraud caused by early voting and absentee ballots, policies that were put in place by state legislation.
The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett raises speculation that the Trump administration is attempting to utilize the Supreme Court as a political instrument if the election outcome does not favor him. Trump has also appointed an astonishing 10 judges to federal level courts that the BAR association deemed unqualified, which has raised many eyebrows leading to election day.
Thus far, election experts have counted a whopping 200 lawsuits filed by the Trump administration as early voting commenced. States including Nevada, Montana, New Jersey and North Carolina have all become victims to the harsh litigation wave formed by the Trump administration. As such, the current election parallels that of 2000, both embroiled in a wave of lawsuits and recourse to litigation in a battle over fraudulent vote counts. While Trump has deployed a series of legal attacks to protect his incumbency, individual states have similarly responded with legal action. For instance, Minnesota recently passing legislation mandating all mail-in ballots be received by election day.
The U.S. — a democracy in which the candidate with a larger voter majority can still lose — continues to be subject to flaws within its electoral institutions. Due to the sheer influx of mail-in votes, we may have to wait long past election day for a definitive result. However, I am certain of one thing: Nobody will be conceding the race, and just as in 2000, the Supreme Court, now nicely set up by the Trump administration, may be called upon for a final call. If President Trump loses, voter fraud will be a hot topic amongst lawyers and legislators. If Biden loses, voter suppression will flood the ears of many. Both Biden and Trump have learned from their respective party’s errors long ago, and will certainly — and strategically — plan to cement their case around lawyers and the political use of the courts.
Canaan Delgado is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. ¿Que pasa? runs alternate Wednesdays this semester.