Unlike most Election Days, this one has a decent chance of ending without a clear winner. Blame the excruciatingly tight races around the country that could lead to recounts, the two potential runoffs that may dictate control of the U.S. Senate, and the Supreme Court for taking action on state voting laws just weeks before Election Day. But one thing is clear: an army of lawyers is readying for kind of battle not witnessed since Florida in 2000. The weeks and months leading up to this year’s midterms have meant a mix of heavy preparation, equally heavy anxiety and a lot of waiting for a subset of the legal community. In an ideal world, their services will never be needed. In a worst case scenario, their skills may determine the trajectory of the U.S. government for years to come.
Their ranks will be deep and diverse by Election Day. One Republican group, alone, is estimating it’ll have roughly 1,000 lawyers trained by then. They will include the campaign lawyers and their hired outside legal counsel. The national party operations also have legal arms, as do each of the party’s House and Senate campaign committees. Then there are the thousands of lawyers, from civil rights advocates to lobbyists, ready to come in on a volunteer basis should the need arise.
“There’s no perfect election, there just can’t be. It’s too big of a human system,” says Edward B. Foley, the Director of Election Law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. “To the extent that anything gets a little messy, that’s where the lawyers come in.”
Officials on both sides are wary of going into detail about what their election legal plans entail (can’t give the other side any early intelligence, they say), but both national parties have had people on the ground in Georgia and Louisiana—the two states where runoffs look increasingly possible—for months preparing for the possibility.