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Election 2012: First the voting, then counting, then challenges
Both parties have ‘lawyered up’ to protect interests
For those who can't wait until the 2012 presidential election is finally over on Wednesday: not so fast.
Unless one candidate wins a clear and decisive victory — an increasingly unlikely scenario, given the tightness of the polls — some political analysts predict that the final outcome could be delayed by a bevy of lawsuits, challenges and recounts.
"You can bet this year is going to be marked by a ridiculous carnival of grievances," Virginia-based GOP consultant Mike McKenna said. "I can just feel this one coming from 100 miles away. You've got a close election, lousy polling, lots of lawyers — it's just not a good recipe."
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said Sunday on ABC-TV's "This Week" that she'll have her eyes peeled for examples of voter intimidation in the aftermath of tougher state laws on voter identification.
"I'm going to focus on the whole issue of voter intimidation, voter suppression, because as you well know, 33 states tried to impose onerous, burdensome rules," said Ms. Brazile.
She raised the possibility of 2012 turning into a repeat of the 2000 presidential race, in which Republican George W. Bush was declared the winner over Democrat Al Gore after weeks of legal challenges and multiple recounts in Florida, which he won by a scant 537 votes.
"When I think about Florida, my blood pressure, you know, somehow jumps up, but this is going to be a very close election," said Ms. Brazile, who headed Mr. Gore's campaign that year. "Clearly, in some of those states where we've had this contention battle over voter ID, that's something I will watch on Tuesday night."
Republicans, meanwhile, are still smarting over the 2008 Senate race in Minnesota, which Republican Norm Coleman lost to Democrat Al Franken after nearly eight months of legal wrangling. Some Republicans still contend that the race was stolen, just as many Democrats continue to question the legitimacy of the Bush win.
The result is that both sides have lawyered up with armies of volunteers and hired guns in all 50 states, ready to pounce at the first sign of impropriety.
One bone of contention emerged Sunday in Florida, where Democrats announced that they had filed a federal lawsuit asking for an extension of the state's early-voting period in several Democratic-leaning counties in South Florida. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has opposed the extra time, noting that early-voting centers were open for eight days as required by state law.
An estimated 25 million voters are expected to vote early this year, the most in U.S. history. Some poll-watchers worry that the expanded access will lead to more opportunities for chicanery, given that some polling places have been clearly overwhelmed by long lines and lack of infrastructure.
Another problem lies with the unusually large number of close state races. Polls show as many as eight states locked in statistical ties, increasing the likelihood that the outcome will trigger an automatic recounts. Those states where the vote falls just outside the recount margin are likely to see demands for judges to order a second or third tallying.
"Everybody was focused on Florida in 2000, but this year it could be two, three or four states where the margins are between 1 percentage point and a half-percentage point, and that could lead to litigation," said former Republican National Committee general counsel Tom Sansonetti, who was involved in the 2000 Florida recount.
The sheer volume of pre-election research polling could also play into post-election feuding. Both campaigns can point to polls that show their candidate ahead in key swing states, which could fuel claims of improper voting if and when the surveys fail to match the election results.
"No matter what happens in the election, the only thing I'm certain of is that opinion researchers are going to have a really hard moment where they have to look at what they're doing and how they're doing it," Mr. McKenna said. "With all those surveys out there, somebody is going to be wrong. And different people are going to be wrong in different places."
When one candidate fails to win a state in which various polls showed him ahead, he said, "People are going to use the survey results to get traction on their claims that something bad, illegal or immoral happened."
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About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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