Will 2020 be one big Florida recount?
An attorney involved in the 2000 Florida recount says the “nightmare scenario” he witnessed in Miami that year seems about to be repeated — exactly 20 years later.
In a recent call with reporters, former Bush team lawyer Tom Spencer talked of the “chaotic situation” this year with numerous reports around the country of ballots being dumped by U.S. postal workers, a ballot drop box set on fire in California and more than 300 election-related lawsuits filed in different states.
“All of this is creating a crisis and I believe that the judicial and litigation status of all of these lawsuits which are being filed and the interactions of some of the judges — taking it upon themselves to rewrite election rules at the very last minute — is causing, legitimately, doubt in the public over the efficacy of this election,” Spencer said.
Spencer was one of several lawyers working for President George W. Bush in Miami following the presidential election in 2000, and was one of the few in the room when ballots were being recounted in Miami. He’s now vice president of the non-partisan Lawyers Democracy Fund.
“The specter of the canvassing board reviewing those absentee ballots and the recounted ballots was really an eye-opener for me,” he said.
“As I looked at what the canvassing board in Miami-Dade County was doing, I could see that it was a political decision by many of the canvassing board officials,” Spencer said. “Those who were Democrats found Gore votes in the hanging chads, those that were Republican members of the judiciary found Bush ballots in those hanging chads.
“And the standards which were used to determine voter intent in that election were frighteningly absent. Throughout the state, there were different standards that were used.”
Spencer said he thinks the country is in “very much the same position” today, and that few people understand just how long it will take to do a manual recount.
“People don’t realize that the time necessary in order to analyze those ballots is extraordinary,” he said.
Most of the election-related lawsuits have to do with mail-in and absentee ballots. Many are funded by the Democratic Party or its allies, in most cases asking courts to strike down state laws designed to guard against voter fraud.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted 4-4 on an appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision requiring counties to accept ballots received up to three days after an election, and even if the postmark is not visible (or nonexistent), handing a win to the Democrats and their election lawyer, Marc Elias.
In the coming days, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on whether election officials in Wisconsin must accept ballots that arrive six days after Election Day.
Among other battleground states, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Michigan have a hard deadline of Election Day for receipt of mail-in and absentee ballots, but North Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio will count ballots received three to 10 days after the election.
An unprecedented number of people are expected to vote by mail this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Democratic Party in particular has pushed mail-in voting, and pushed for states to send out ballots to all voters on the voter rolls, a scenario that many have warned would be a disaster given the condition of voter rolls.
A report released last month by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) found 349,773 dead people on voter rolls in 41 states, and that of these, 7,890 had cast votes in 2016 — votes that were counted. New York had the highest number of dead people on its rolls — 59,096, followed by 36,054 in Texas, 34,225 in Michigan and 25,162 in Florida.
North Carolina, a swing state, had the highest number of dead people who voted in 2016 — 2,454.
Duplicate registrations were also revealed in the report to be an enormous problem.
The authors of the PILF report said it appeared from state voter files that 43,760 people cast second votes from the same address in 2016, and that tens of thousands of these appeared to be mail-in ballots.
The problem, the report’s authors said, is that the lawyers who staff the voting section at the Department of Justice “have no interest in enforcing the law” because many previously worked for liberal organizations such as the NAACP and ACLU, groups that oppose enforcement of the Motor Voter Law and the Help America Vote Act, which require regular maintenance of voter rolls to remove ineligible voters.
This year’s election-related lawsuits — many of them filed by Elias and an organization called Democracy Docket — have challenged state laws requiring that signatures on mail-in and absentee ballots match signatures on file with a local elections office and laws that require absentee ballots to have a postmark to show they were mailed by Election Day.
They’ve also pushed for elections offices to allow voters an opportunity to fix or “cure” a ballot missing a signature, and to provide drop boxes placed in several locations around a county where voters can drop a ballot.
Unmanned drop boxes, said Spencer, are a “tremendous problem” as they “aid and abet illegal vote harvesting,” adding that “anybody can drop that ballot into that drop box, and no one knows who did it.”
Spencer called claims that voter fraud isn’t real a “national delusion” and referenced an “underworld” of voter fraud in several parts of the country in which people traffic in absentee ballots.
He referred specifically to the 1997 mayoral race in Miami, where a massive fraud scheme with 43 ballot brokers paying people for ballots was exposed, and the election result overturned.
“It’s a very, very serious problem,” he said.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Margaret Menge is a freelance journalist who’s written for the Columbia Journalism Review, New York Observer, Miami Herald, The American Conservative, among other publications. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.