Law expert dispels confusion and doubt over election process

President Donald Trump continues to challenge the integrity of the election process, but legal experts say his claims are baseless. 

“There’s a lot of heated rhetoric going on right now, but when it comes to actually what’s happening legally it’s pretty routine, it’s pretty normal,” said Lisa Marshall Manheim, Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

Manheim said until there are actual legal claims, the ballot count just goes forward.

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If a legal challenge is raised, it’ll be raised before a state court since state governments run elections.

“As a result, the vast majority of legal disputes that go forward never get into federal court, they never reach the US supreme court and again from what I’ve seen before, I haven’t seen anything so far that would suggest there was an issue here that would ever reach the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Manheim. “The only real on point case we have is Bush v. Gore, and in that case it was much further along in the process that the relevant legal dispute came up. Also the facts there were extraordinary, among other things. The difference between the candidates in the relevant state, which was Florida, the difference between the candidates was so small. Here we aren’t seeing that sort of difference thus far in the states that would potentially make the difference moving forward.”

However, it’s reasonable to argue the presidential election is a much closer battle than anticipated, but as far as if that will draw out the process Manheim said the elections are already a process that take time.

“December 8 is the deadline where a lot of states are going to try to get any disputes resolved. December 14 is when the Electoral College meets, and then in January, early January, we have Congress deciding who has won the Electoral College and the Inauguration is on January 20,” said Manheim.

At this point, Manheim said everything continues moving forward as normal and sets the record straight on the confusion. “One of the explanations for that is actually not that the law is unclear. The law is pretty settled here. We know how this works and it’s instead again sort of this rhetoric going around that’s, I think, making things feel much more confused than they actually are.”

Manheim is an expert in election law and said it’s common for elections to be disputed, and that state laws and procedures are in place to accommodate any range of legal challenges.