You have heard of the ‘October Surprise’ no doubt. Whether it be the Nixon vs. McGovern election of 1972, the Carter vs. Reagan election of 1980 or the Bush vs. Clinton election of 1992 it is common that some kind of favorable event break a mere week or two ahead of the general election held in early November to usually assist the incumbent President. Let’s not forget one of the more infamous and gratuitously, self-serving October Surprises of all when it was revealed a mere six days prior to Election Day of George W. Bush’s DUI arrest.
Early voting has taken hold and is widely used across the nation. A total of 32 states and the District of Columbia now have some form of early voting where registered voters can visit an election official’s office or satellite voting locations and cast their ballot. Some states allow early voting to occur as early as 45 days before the election and many locations keep the voting window open up until the Saturday just prior to Election Day which is held on the first Tuesday in November.
Early voting has cast a shadow over the traditional October surprise tactic. As campaigns would consider options in how they could increase their favorability or cast doubt in voters mind about the favorability of their opponent, early voting has thrown the proverbial ‘monkey wrench’ in the cogs of the political spin machine. With voters casting ballots over a month in advance of Election Day, messaging in October loses its desired impact to sway voters. So now strategies have to be revamped and new tactics employed.
Hence, the November Surprise. A look at the electoral map has both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney slugging it out in a tight race. Dependent on which electoral map you look at, there are as many as 11 states that are hotly contested and are within the margin of error, (+/- 3% points). As of this writing, the states of Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio are considered to be a statistical dead heat and the separation between the winner and loser of these states can be as little as under 100 votes. Not all states provide for an automatic recount if the margin of votes cast is within a certain percentage. Of these three hotly contested states, only Ohio has a mechanism that triggers an automatic recount. Simply challenging the results of any states vote count is seen as likely by the Obama or Romney campaigns. However, grounds for lawsuits are a different matter and that is something that we are seeing signs of as the election draws near.
For instance; in Iowa there are many provisions in the Iowa Code that can trigger a recount. However, the only likely provision that can be used by a candidate is Iowa Code 57.1e which denotes illegal votes received or legal votes suppressed as an allowable reason for the candidate to contest the results. Now, we get to the heart of the matter. Have you been wondering why Democrats have been beating the drum on suppressed vote and voter ID laws? These tactics lay the groundwork for future legal actions to counter undesirable election results.
As reported earlier this year by the washingtonquadrust.com the Obama campaign has amassed lawyers and staffing assistants who stand at the ready to challenge states election results if in-fact they are not favorable to Obama. The dailycaller.com also reported that the Democrat party will have in excess of 5800 attorneys to do battle in states from Florida to Ohio to Iowa no matter where the battle may lie. With the many changes in election law during this election cycle combined with the states who have adopted new voter ID laws the battle may lie not only leading up to the Election Day, but with the probability of a close election the battle could carry on weeks after the election. Americans are now faced with the prospects of an election that plays out long after its expected end date with the possibility of a replay of the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
The country continues to become more polarized and divided on so many issues. With ‘blue’ states and ‘red’ states amassing in specific regions of the country, blues on the east and west coasts and reds in between, the trends indicate that we as a nation are much less tolerant of differing messages. Voters are now seeing not just an election that focuses on the electoral map combined with campaign strategies to bring voters out to the polls, but rather with the battle moving beyond election day we are subject to what can now be called an ‘electoral war’.