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If anybody understands how messy counting the ballots can be, it’s Barry Richard, the lead Florida lawyer for George W. Bush during the Florida Recount of 2000.
But as another anguish-inducing presidential election winds down, Richard has some advice for people watching the results come in on Nov. 3: Be calm, and be patient.
“Both the voters and the media have to be cautious and have patience and just wait until all the votes come in,” Richard said in the latest episode of Political Party with Adam Smith.
“I believe that this election probably will play itself out without any serious problems. The problems that we had in 2000 don’t exist anymore,” he said.
The punch card ballots and hanging chads have been replaced with highly reliable fill-in-the-bubble optical scan ballots, and the Florida legislature has fixed most of the problems and inconsistent standards that surfaced in 2000.
President Donald Trump as recently as this week has raised doubts about mail voting, which has surged because of Covid-19, and the potential for election fraud. Richard dismissed that.
“I don’t think anybody legitimate really has a concern about that,” he said.
“He says whatever serves him at the moment, and that serves him at the moment because of the assumption that more Republicans will be voting on election day and more Democrats will be voting by mail.”
Political experts expect an early, “red mirage” in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin because mail ballots in those states will not be counted until Nov. 3. The early vote returns, in other words, will skew Republican until the mail results comes in and shift results toward the Democrats.
In Florida, a “blue mirage” is more likely because pre-election day votes are counted before Nov. 3 and those tend to favor Democrats. Republican voters are likely to outnumber Democrats on Nov 3.
There is always the potential for lawsuits over the counting of provisional ballots and mail ballots after Nov. 3, but Richard doubted they would be successful.
“The lesson of 2000, which I hope is the lesson that we learned and are going to abide by, is that we have a very stable democracy here,” Richard said. “And that even when we run into difficulties like we did then, we have a system that was gifted to us by the founders of this country that is capable of withstanding those problems and capable of giving us a president that everybody accepts.”