WASHINGTON — I spent weeks in Tallahassee in 2000 covering the Bush-Gore Florida recount battle until it was resolved, and as President Donald Trump wraps up his reelection bid, one of his most destructive lies is his false assertion that the presidential election must be called on Tuesday night.
“The Election should end on November 3rd., not weeks later!” Trump said in a tweet on Friday, echoing the point at various swing state rallies in recent days.
Trump’s supposed public ignorance of how elections work is designed to create doubt over the outcome if it looks like he is headed to defeat.
Don’t be fooled.
There is no national deadline to have all the votes counted.
Local authorities administer elections, and there are plenty of them across the United States. There are 108 local election agencies just in Illinois. It often takes days, sometimes weeks to determine official tallies.
Don’t be bamboozled.
The fact is, a winner is informally declared in a presidential race and other contests on election night based on unofficial information compiled by campaigns, the television news networks and the Associated Press.
That’s it. The official count from each election authority — and each one operates under different rules and regulations — is done when it is done, with court challenges sometimes a cause for delay.
Trump believes that Democrats are doing better with early and mail-in voters, and he’s likely correct in this COVID-19 pandemic election, according to the rival Joe Biden campaign. That’s why Trump’s legal team has been trying in swing states to delegitimize and suppress early voting and thwart the counting of mail ballots delivered after Tuesday.
Briefing reporters Monday, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said, “Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night, and we think that that’s really fundamental to how we want to approach tomorrow.”
All mailed ballots are never delivered to the authorities by election night, and “we know that is going to be true this year as well. And it is no different than any other time and that is not something that Donald Trump should make you think is bad or wrong. It is the way it works,” O’Malley Dillon said.
The Biden team is braced for Trump declaring victory on election night — even if the contest has not been called and the outcome is murky.
O’Malley Dillon said she expects Biden to “address the American people, probably late.” As for Trump, “We’re not really concerned about what Donald Trump says on election night or what he may want to convey.”
THE FLORIDA RECOUNT AND BILL DALEY
Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, besting George W. Bush by 543,895 ballots. Gore lost the White House after a 36-day recount battle in Florida bounced between state and federal courts.
A 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of Bush led Gore to concede to Bush on Dec. 13, 2000, after it was determined that Bush won Florida by 537 votes.
I was in Austin, Texas, on that Nov. 7, 2000 election night — that’s where the Bush campaign was headquartered — when TV networks called Florida for Gore, then switched to Bush. Gore called Bush to congratulate him, and in the early morning hours of Nov. 8 was on his way to the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee — where his campaign was based — to concede.
At the last minute, word got to Gore not to go on stage since the networks switched again, saying Florida was too close to call.
It fell to Bill Daley — at the time, Gore’s campaign chairman, President Bill Clinton’s former commerce secretary and the son and brother of Chicago mayors — to speak to the crowd.
“The TV networks called this race for Governor Bush. It now appears — it now appears that their call was premature,” Daley said on that historic night.
Daley added, “Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are fully prepared to concede and to support Governor Bush if and when he is officially elected president. But this race is simply too close to call, and until the results — the recount is concluded and the results of Florida become official, our campaign continues.”
I vaulted to Tallahassee from Austin and covered the 36 days it took to determine who won the 2000 presidential election.
On Monday, I talked to Daley — who knows a lot about roller coaster election nights — about what Biden should say if Trump prematurely declares victory.
Daley said Biden should, “in a reasonable way,” say, “‘It is about counting all the ballots that Americans have cast, and until that is done, I’m going to say nothing more than that and let the process continue.”’
ILLINOISANS BOLSTER BIDEN MICHIGAN VOTER PROTECTION TEAM
Chicago government affairs consultant Mike Alexander and Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi organized more than 120 lawyers and other legal professionals in Illinois to head to battleground Michigan to help secure the vote for Biden.