Yet, over the past week, we have heard repeated assertions that the outcome of this election is somehow in doubt, as it was in 2000.
It is not. Biden will be president. There are many areas of policy on which we disagree. But no matter how you voted in this election, that is the clear outcome. The nation’s laws and shared values dictate that Americans now unite to support democracy, national security, the public trust in institutions and the urgent work of the next administration.
It is also important for the public to understand why 2020 bears no resemblance to 2000.
The presidential-election controversies currently playing out in various parts of the country are not repeats of Bush v. Gore.
That case involved the agonizingly close election in a single state, Florida, the outcome of which was to be decisive in the election for president that year. A mere 500 or so votes separated candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore. The Supreme Court ultimately concluded that there were separate and conflicting vote-counting standards in different parts of Florida that violated the Constitution. The justices halted a late Florida Supreme Court order for a statewide recount.
That decision should have no bearing on the suits pending in several states. The litigation will serve only to delay the inevitable resolution of this year’s presidential election.
It is clear to us, and by now to most Americans, that former vice president Biden won, including in the six states central to the challenges being mounted by President Trump’s lawyers.
The margins in those six states range from 10,000 votes in Arizona to more than 145,000 votes in Michigan. Evidence of systemic or widespread fraud or miscounting in those states has simply not been found, and recounts rarely, if ever, change the outcome of elections by more than a few hundred votes.
Trump would have to overturn the outcome in more than one of those states to change what is apparent as the clear result of the election. It is time to accept that Biden won the election and it is time to accept that result and come together as a nation.
We might not agree completely on the widespread use of mail-in ballots, or the expansion of the election from one day into several weeks, but these are matters largely left by the Constitution to individual states. Those issues can be addressed by the states and Congress, if appropriate, at some time in the future.
Many state legislatures, red and blue and purple alike, chose to make mail-in ballots widely available to their voters. State supreme courts, which have the responsibility to interpret state law, have upheld those decisions.
There is no plausible legal basis for federal courts to revisit this decision by state legislators — particularly after the election is over and voters have relied on existing state law when choosing how to vote.
Nor is there any plausible basis to allege fraud in the casting or counting of ballots that could conceivably affect the outcome of the election. Across the country, secretaries of state and citizen volunteers worked tirelessly and conscientiously to count all legal votes fairly. They deserve praise and gratitude, not to be the targets of unsupported attacks on their integrity.
The idea that the Republican secretary of state of Georgia was party to a vast conspiracy spanning different states across the country to fraudulently elect the Democratic presidential candidate is ludicrous. It is also wrong.
We do not agree with those who demonize lawyers for taking election cases to court; court is where election disputes must be decided, not in the streets or on social media. Nor do we agree with those who demonize lawyers representing unpopular clients; lawyers’ willingness to represent clients the public despises is a bedrock of the American system of justice.
Political candidates, however, have an obligation not to inflame passions and undermine the public’s faith in democracy with unsupported charges of fraud and malfeasance. And the lawyers who represent those candidates have an obligation to the courts, of which they are officers, not to make frivolous claims or arguments.
Past losers of presidential elections, however stinging their defeats, have ultimately decided to make peace with the opposing camp. Former vice president Gore did so, admirably, when Bush v. Gore was resolved. The sooner that Trump and his supporters accept the election result, the better it will be for the nation.