After two weeks of dispute with St. Lucie County elections officials, Florida Rep. Allen West conceded the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District to Democrat Patrick Murphy on Tuesday. Allen’s post-election battle was the most high-profile this year, but the phenomenon is by no means unusual. In today’s political climate, candidates don’t like to concede, even after the votes have been counted. Increasingly, they are taking their cases to the courts, says Joshua Douglas, an assistant professor of law at the University of Kentucky.
In 2000, it was the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. In 2004, it was Washington state’s gubernatorial race between Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire. In 2008, Al Franken and Norm Coleman fought for more than eight months over the results of the Minnesota Senate race. And in 2010, Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller filed three lawsuits in both federal and Alaska state courts after his race against Lisa Murkowski.
West’s battle is over, but there’s still a chance that some of the 2012 congressional races will end up in court. In North Carolina, Republican David Rouzer has requested a recount in the race for the state’s 7th Congressional District.
These battles are becoming increasingly common. Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, says election-related litigation (including pre-election and post-election litigation) has more than doubled in the period after 2000. And he says we’re in for more in the future.
Douglas says there has been at least one post-election litigation in every general or midterm election year since 2000, with the exception of 2002.