You may think the election drama will be over after November 8th. Truth is, it could just be getting started on that day. With both party’s already crying foul, this election is far from over. Just gear up, the storm might be getting worse.
By Mark Niquette and Margaret Talev
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are arming up for a possible post-Election Day battle.
Clinton is assembling a voter protection program that has drawn thousands of lawyers agreeing to lend their time and expertise in battleground states, though the campaign isn’t saying exactly how many or where. It is readying election observers in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Arizona to assess any concerns — including the potential for voter intimidation — and to verify normal procedures.
The Republican National Lawyers Association, which trains attorneys in battleground states and in local jurisdictions where races are expected to be close, aims to assemble 1,000 lawyers ready to monitor polls and possibly challenge election results across the country. Hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, one of Trump’s biggest backers, has sunk $500,000 into the group, its biggest donation in at least four presidential elections, Internal Revenue Service filings show.
“We are fighting for open, fair and honest elections,” the association’s executive director, Michael Thielen, said in an e-mail.
Most discussion about the potential for a contested election until now has revolved around the premise of a Trump loss, his contention that the election is “rigged” and his refusal to say ahead of time that he would concede. But since FBI Director James Comey’s controversial disclosure on Friday that he is reviewing newly discovered e-mails possibly related to an investigation of Clinton, several polls have shown the race tightening considerably.
Although Clinton still holds an advantage — currently 2.5 percentage points in the RealClear Politics average of national polls — the developments have raised the prospect of a much closer than expected result and a previously unforeseen question: Would Clinton refuse to concede and wait for recounts and certified results or initiate legal action if she narrowly loses one or more battleground states decisive to the election.
“If the perception is we’re heading into a close election and it actually is close, then you’d have the sense that the candidates – maybe on both sides – would say, ‘Well, we’ve really got to make sure we look at every ballot,’’’ said Edward Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.
In the final presidential debate, Trump surprisingly said he would “keep you in suspense” on the question of whether he’d accept the election results. For the Clinton campaign, what Trump says on election night, even in the face of a clear loss, is the least of its concerns.
“If he just simply refuses to concede that night, which is a possibility we’re increasingly bracing for, we don’t think that is a worrisome prospect,’’ Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said last week. The campaign is preparing more for traditional legal challenges.
While a concession from a presidential candidate has cultural significance in helping the country accept the result and move on, it has “no legal status whatsoever,” Foley said.
The only thing that counts is the count — and then maybe the recount.
Each state releases an unofficial vote on election night that is made official after a post-election canvass confirms the accuracy. When a state certifies its official result, that determines the slate of Electoral College electors who meet Dec. 19. Congress accepts that vote on Jan. 6 to declare a president-elect.