With increased voter turnout in several counties and states, election experts predict this 2020 Presidential election cycle saw voters turnout at record-breaking numbers. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), the race was a close one with no clear winner by Wednesday or even Thursday night. As ballot-counting finally winds down, the results show former Vice President Joe Biden as the winner. Yet, the Trump campaign has filed numerous lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia in an attempt to reclaim these states. The Republican candidate has already called for a recount in Wisconsin as well.
This isn’t the first time presidential candidates have pushed for recounts in close calls. In fact, the 2000 election is remembered for Bush’s narrowly won lead in Florida. When his opponent Al Gore learned Bush won by a margin of less than 0.01%, Gore’s lawyers called for a recount, as Florida law mandated when the margin was less than 0.5%, prompting Bush to sue in response. The Supreme Court eventually heard the case and decided that the Florida recount violated Bush’s constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The leading margin for Biden over Trump in several battleground states isn’t nearly as slim as it was for Bush’s lead over Gore. While Biden won by narrow margins, these states still have him ahead by several thousands of votes: historically, recounts have only changed the outcome by a few hundred votes at most. For such drastic changes to happen, the Trump campaign would have to prove instances of voting fraud. Although they have already filed lawsuits based on such claims, at least two states have thrown out the cases, citing a complete lack of evidence behind the accusations.
While the judges’ holdings were limited only to Bush v. Gore (2000), they still set the public precedent that once a winner is called, presidential candidates need to respect the outcome. Peaceful transfer of power is a necessity for a democracy to thrive. Dragging out the presidential election after the people’s votes have already been tallied only harms the nation. Once the people have spoken, their elected officials need to listen.