Will Litigation Delay Outcome and Determine Who Will Be Our Next President?

Readers expect a delay in the election results but don’t think all the lawyers will determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election

This year’s presidential election promises to be interesting.

We normally expect a relatively smooth election. The charges and counter-charges may be harsh, the campaign may be dirty, the mud may fly in all directions. But, in the final analysis, the voters express their choice, the votes are counted, and the winner takes office at the appointed time.

That scenario changed in 2000. The scenario was typical until the election. But we didn’t have a winner. And, when we did get a winner, it was only after Al Gore sought a few recounts, went to court and the election was not finalized until a ruling was made by the US Supreme Court.

In past years, the courts were not generally a major part of the election process. But, with courts, lawyers and lawsuits seeping into most aspects of society, why would we expect that the decision to determine our political leadership would be any different?

This year, thousands lawyers are lining up before the election.

Will the litigation impact the election? We asked readers of FedSmith.com their opinion. Here are the results.

48% of readers think that lawsuits will delay knowing the results of the presidential election. 25% think there will not be a delay and 27% are not sure.

Will the lawsuits determine or substantially impact the outcome of the election? Readers are more optimistic on this question. 40% say the lawsuits will not impact the outcome. 29% think it will have an impact and 31% are not sure.

As to the question of “how do you classify your political affiliation,” 34% of readers say they are Democrats. 32% identify themselves as Republicans and 30% are independent. 4% list themselves as “other.”

Most of our polls indicate that federal employees are more liberal in casting their vote than the general public. That same trend continues in our final poll before the election. On the question of who will receive readers’ votes tomorrow (if they haven’t already voted), 44% indicate they are voting for George Bush. 54% say they are voting for John Kerry. 2% are undecided. Ralph Nader polled less than 1%.

The issue of potential lawsuits surrounding the election generated a number of strong opinions from readers. A reader from the BLM in Cheyenne, Wyoming felt that litigation was inevitable: “When you live in a country with 40% of the world’s lawyers and when you live in a country as politically divided as we are at the moment, litigation is inevitable. I am more concerned with a survey released this morning (10/29) which finds that 62% of the electorate says they will not support the winner if he is not from their side. Bipartisanship is a dodo in America today and that scares me more than the threat of lawsuits!”

An LER Specialist with DHS in Dallas, Texas agreed the litigation is likely because of the 2000 election: “It has already been reported that thousands of attorneys are positioned to raise immediate challenges to the polling results in battleground states. Challenges to electronic voting machines began months ago. It seems apparent that the trend, started by Al Gore in the 2000 election, of mounting legal challenges to polling outcomes, is going to be the standard for many, if not all, future elections.”

An Electronics Engineer with DCMA in Orlando, Florida agrees that litigation is likely but hopes it would actually be beneficial to the election results: “Due the expected close results coupled with early challenges to voter registration as well as lawyers from both parties closely monitoring the whole voting process, I feel that it is inevitable to have legal challenges. This will delay the final results. Hopefully, it will make the results fairer.”

An HR Specialist with the DOD in Arlington, Virginia also feels that litigation is likely and that the legal system is to blame: “Unfortunately, I believe the lawyers will file numerous suits that have little merit which will significantly delay the outcome of the election. To me, this is just another good example of why tort reform is son needed.”

A retired federal employee from Florida has strong feelings about the possibility of litigation and blames Al Gore for setting the precedent in 2000:

The fact that there is much discussion and worry about lawsuits delaying the election results, which conceivably could throw the country into a constitutional crisis, is the legacy of Al Gore. Too bad Gore did not exhibit as much class as Richard Nixon did when he lost to John Kennedy in a squeaker. I was definitely not a fan of Nixon. But he put the good of the country before his personal ambitions when he decided not to run to the courts to challenge the questionable voting in Ohio.

Al Gore, on the other hand, put his personal ambitions ahead of every other consideration by challenging the Florida vote count in court, after several recounts of the vote did not come out the way he wanted.

So, along comes the next presidential election. Is anyone surprised that the lawyers are being mobilized all over the country, the lawsuits are flying already, and the wife of one of the VP candidates stated something to the effect of if their side does not win there will be “riots in the street.”

I guess we should be grateful that it took this long into our history for national so-called “leaders” to emerge that really don’t care about this country and are willing to plunge it into a constitutional crisis if that’s what it takes to win.

A manager with the FAA in Minneapolis, Minnesota feels that neither candidate will be able to achieve much with lawsuits and believes that this election is of great significance to the country’s future: “I don’t believe either candidate will be able to drastically change things either way. I do believe that most people are missing the real fact that they are really voting for 15-30 years in the future. Whoever wins will have the ability to appoint supreme court justices which will set the standards for our nation, for the forseeable (sic) future. By the time this survey will be out, it will be to late change. The foundation of our country may be changed radically.”

A Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist with the VA in West Palm Beach, Florida feels that election workers have a role in problems with election results: “It is hard to say that lawsuits will make a difference, I am afraid that in Florida, we tend to be skeptical of the voting situation. Too many times, there have been tampering with the voting in this state. I will wait and see and if we have problems with the votes again, then we need to have an investigation. I cannot believe that we are again having to rely on people that did a terrible job the last time and are still in power to cause problems again. I hope that this time are votes are counted and we are not baboozled by the people running the elections.”

An HR Specialist with the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland lacks confidence in the vote tallying process overall: “Again, I don’t have confidence that the democratic vote counting will be accuate (sic). I’ve heard too much about tricks with throwing away voter registration materials, etc., to believe that if Bush is touted as the winner, whether that will indeed be an accurate reflection of the nation’s voters.”

An HR Specialist with the DOI believes that as long as there are no problems, lawyers should refrain from filing any lawsuits, but remains pessimistic about the possibility of litigation: “As long as the voting ‘equipment’ does not malfunction and there is no perceived ‘intimidation’ against voters, the lawyers should let the process take its course. The chances of these issues, or others, surfacing are probably pretty good so the potential is there for this to be a wreck of an election for the American people.”

Feel free to share other comments and ideas you have on this issue with our readers by submitting your comments with the form at the end of this article. Thanks to all of our readers who participated in our survey and shared their opinions!

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47