Lots of people are wondering whether there was voter fraud in the 2020 election. No one yet knows, but I’d like to relate my personal experience about a candidate I worked for being thrown off a ballot and my retaining confidence in the election process nonetheless.
It was 1992, and I had taken a brief leave from my day job in order to help organize a primary battle against an incumbent Republican U.S. senator in New York State. (His being a Republican is relevant to this story.)
While you could easily Google the names to learn more, I’ll omit them here because the process and outcome are more important than the specific players. (The party, however, is important, and I’ll get to that at the end.)
We’ll call the incumbent “AD” and the challenger “LR” for convenience.
The incumbent, AD, was a formidable opponent. He had a long political career and, at the time we were challenging, was nearing the end of his second term in the U.S. Senate. He had the Republican machine behind him. The challenger, LR, had on his side some moderate Republicans — AD was conservative — and even some NYC Democrats who drifted over to help LR. The campaign headquarters was in NYC.
A three-week miracle
To wage a primary challenge to AD, we needed to get LR on the ballot. We were late to start the process and to qualify him, we needed a certain number of signatures on petitions in each of New York State’s 62 counties. As I recall it was between 250 and 1,000 signatures per county (which, while broad, is an accurate reflection of the scope of the work involved). All signatures had to be valid. It was a stretch to obtain even 250 per county, since we had 62 counties to cover in about seventeen days. Some of the counties were rural and required a lot of local travel. Others were closer to urban areas, and signatures could be obtained more quickly.
The army of canvassers went to all sorts of places to get signatures: street corners in NYC; commuter rail stations on Long Island; stores and gathering place in upstate. We worked 12- to 20-hour days, seven days a week, for almost three weeks.
We collected the minimum number of signatures to qualify our candidate. But it was a small margin and we weren’t sure that LR would stay on the ballot.
What happened next is what any shrewd candidate would do: AD’s team challenged the signatures in court.
I soon learned that at the time (1992), a full 25% of all election litigation in the country happened in New York State. We felt this weight come down…hard.
Signatures were quickly and summarily disqualified for things like unreadable names next to signatures, incorrect election districts, and various such technicalities. But though these were technicalities, it was legal to challenge the signatures and have them disqualified.
Our opponent got thrown off the ballot. Legally.
The Rule of Law, and fraud
If you go back about 150 years in New York City history, you’ll read about William Magear “Boss” Tweed and Tammany Hall.
For many of us, the name “Boss Tweed” is synonymous not only with corrupt politicians but also the Democrat Party. Does the Republican Party cheat sometimes? Sure.
But the Republican Party, for a long time and certainly in 2020, touts itself as the “law and order” party. In this context, Rudy Guiliani and team are waging a legal battle in several states to have ballots thrown out that they believe are illegally cast or fraudulent. If this happens to a great enough extent, it will turn several states from blue to red and could reverse the outcome of the election.
President Trump would serve a second term.
Would Biden supporters like this? No. Would they accept this? Probably not.
And right there is the key difference between most Democrats and most Republicans.
When our team — that had worked so hard, believing that our candidate was the better man to serve the state of New York — lost, we were sorely disappointed. LR even appealed the decision. In court. But we’d lost.
It’s always demoralizing when a judge rules for or against the will of the people. New Yorkers wanted our candidate to have a shot at the Senate, even though he may have lost. They wanted a choice in the primary.
Likewise, in 2000, Al Gore lost the general election to George W. Bush by a margin of 537 votes in Florida out of a total of six million votes cast. That’s 0.009%. Ultimately, the Court decided. Again, it’s unfortunate when the will of the people is decided by a handful of people.
But that is our system.
As imperfect as it may seem.
As unjust as it may seem.
If President Trump’s team is successful in having ballots disqualified legally, even on the smallest technicality, Biden supporters need to accept that. Gore supporters for a long time thought the election was “stolen.” Democrats in 2017 started impeachment proceedings, convinced that there had been illegal foreign influence. Yet neither was proven in a court of law. Perhaps one or both was in fact stolen or influenced! But this didn’t happen. Law prevailed.
We are a country that abides by the Rule of Law. Law, no particular politician or politicians, is our “ruler.”
To operate differently is anarchy. (Literally, without a ruler.)
That’s not who we are. We who are people of faith, especially Christians, believe that grace and love are the greatest truths, and they “rule.” But we are America, and there is (fortunately, and by design) no state religion, and I hope there never is. Law governs us.
America is the land of the free; free to live with each other within the Rule of Law.