No American election would be complete without the armies of lawyers that are being assembled by both parties to contest the results and monitor recounts if the outcome in some states is too close to call on Nov. 6. The nightmare scenario of 2000 – when a recount in Florida left the nation in limbo for days – is once again top of mind. The Obama campaign has launched an ad recalling the circumstances that allowed George W. Bush to claim the presidency 12 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida with Mr. Bush ahead by only 537 votes.
The ad is a get-out-the-vote effort by Democrats that reflects their growing fear that razor-thin margins of victory for Barack Obama in key swing states could be undone by GOP lawyers. “So, this year, if you’re thinking your vote doesn’t count, that it won’t matter – well, back then, there were probably 537 people who felt the same way,” the ad reminds voters.
In addition to Florida, tight races in Ohio and Colorado have Republicans and Democrats recruiting thousands of lawyers to oversee vote counting in those states. Florida’s so-called “hanging chads” on punched card ballots were the biggest bone of contention in 2000. This year, however, it is the authenticity of absentee (or mail-in) ballots and the validity of provisional ballots that are expected to spark protracted legal challenges on both sides, meaning that Nov. 6 could come and go without a clear winner in the presidential race.