Pulling A Rosie Ruiz: The Risky Business of Calling American Presidential Elections

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Being a legal analyst often makes you a killjoy at a party.  As millions broke out in celebration over the calling of the election for Joe Biden (including most of my immediate family), I watched with a mix of shared excitement and silent apprehension. It does appear that Biden won this election and his speech last night was the perfect pitch and message for a divided nation.  However, there are still legal challenges being filed in a half dozen, new affidavits containing troubling sworn allegations, and relatively close state contests. As someone who has covered presidential elections for networks going back to 2000, those challenges are like live torpedoes in the water – you do not know if one could actually hit below the water line. The issue for legal analysts is that, with the tabulations still occurring, there is little ability to judge allegations of voting irregularities.

We still do not know if there is evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Indeed, I am getting the feeling that the Trump campaign does not know. Thus far, the Trump legal team has not submitted hard evidence as opposed to heated allegations.

However, as millions celebrate at what they believe is the finish line, the greatest danger is a Rosie Ruiz election.

Forty years ago, Ruiz became an infamous figure when she was declared the winner of the 84th Boston Marathon in 1980 as the fastest woman. After all, she was seen crossing the finish line before any other woman. The problem was that eight days later, she was found to have crossed the finish line by way of the subway.

The difference between the Boston Marathon and the presidential election is that the latter is designed to avoid a short-cut president-elect. First there is tabulating of ballots, followed by the canvassing of ballots, and then certification of the results. Challenges can continue through the certification stage that should end on December 8th.

There is a certain Rosie Ruiz strategy that is used in elections, particularly in orchestrating a splashy finish and a victorious celebration.

That was the case in 1960 with the election of John F. Kennedy.  Many historians believe that Kennedy actually lost the race to Richard Nixon. Instead he was declared the winner with 49.80% of the popular vote.  Widespread voting fraud was reported in Illinois and Texas that put Kennedy over the top.  Much of those allegations were hashed out after the media declared Kennedy the winner and the campaign set the narrative with celebrations and transition announcements.

After Bush led in Florida by only 1,784, his campaign rushed him out for a victory lap to create the image of the presumptive president elect. Thus, when the Democrats challenged the results and filed a flurry of lawsuits demanding recounts, they were viewed as fighting to reverse the will of the voters in seeking to strike ballots. The recount led to a change of only roughly 900 votes before, 41 days later, the election was effectively ended by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.

What happened next is often overlooked. Multiple studies found that Gore likely won Florida.  However, by that time, George Bush was already sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States. The point is clear.  The important thing is not whether you were in fact victorious but whether you were victorious when you passed the line of certification.

Nevertheless, Mayor Kenney was demanding a concession “just as Al Gore did.” In reality, Gore did challenge that election and forced a recount that lasted 41 days. It turned out that the recount may not have identified the true vote count.

To the credit of Joe Biden, he showed admirable restraint in claiming victory. The question is whether he will now show even greater leadership in supporting a full and open review of key state races.

For its part, the Trump legal team will have to ramp up its game. Thus far, there has been a lack of focus and discipline . . . and a notable lack of real evidence. On Friday, a challenge in federal court in Las Vegas fizzled out for lack of such evidence in front of a clearly exasperated federal judge.

In fairness to the Trump campaign, it is difficult to produce evidence if you have not been allowed access to balloting or key records. Moreover, there is some skepticism over claims that this election was effectively flawless, even in cities with long and checkered histories with voting irregularities. We have never had an election based on such massive numbers of mail-in balloting and there are obvious concerns over authentication of ballots.  The primary concern is not that tabulation workers are filling out ballots or burning ballots. Rather the concern is how mail-in ballots were sent out, authenticated, and processed.  There are many accounts of people receiving multiple ballots, groups filling out ballots on behalf of voters, and even some cases of votes filed for deceased individuals.

In truth, the current allegations are more difficult to track than those in 2000. The Florida recount was largely mechanical and obvious. You had a bizarre “Butterfly ballot” and hanging chads on punch voting cards. The 2020 election involves questions of the authentication of ballots and calibration of tabulation equipment. If such standards are set too low, there would be virtually no instances of irregularity because the threshold standards are too low.  We simply do not know and would not know until there is greater access to information.

All elections have such problems even without the use of tens of millions of mail-in ballots. The question is whether such irregularities are systemic or merely episodic. The current margins in states like Pennsylvania are not likely to be overcome by aggregating small pockets of challenged ballots.

The Democrats have sought to present recounts or judicial review, the opposite position taken in 2000. The concern is that we still have had no meaningful access to the underlying evidence and, while the odds are not high, it is still possible that challenges could find traction in the courts. If there proves to be a real problem in a key state, the massive celebrations could change in character dramatically.

Again, there is currently no evidence of systemic fraud in the election but there is ample reason to conduct reviews. Biden himself should tell the Democratic Party to support such scrutiny and transparency now that the initial tabulations are being completed. That is not easy for any politician, but it would be the ultimate presidential act by the presumptive president-elect. Biden is no Rosie Ruiz. Biden has shown a respect for the process and this was a hard fought victory. He can cross the line without mass transportive assistance. This is the way to show it.

152 thoughts on “Pulling A Rosie Ruiz: The Risky Business of Calling American Presidential Elections”

  1. How can you say there is no “REAL” evidence of fraud in this election? 1.) There are the machines, proved to be charitable & 2.) A single eye witness in court, cab send a man to death row, how us it hundreds of eye witnesses are invalid???

  2. No evidence yet? The link below is fairly compelling evidence of systematic fraud – approaching the statistical significance of Hillary’s commodity top-ticking bonanza. But are courts able to assess it? The argument in Bush v. Gore was not empirical at all. The decision was rigged as tightly as the ballot-stuffing – counting votes would not be fair to the DCI’s son, Q.E.D.


  3. Professor Turkey, Who is doing your research?? You mentioned in your article today “What happened next is often overlooked. Multiple studies found that Gore likely won Florida. However, by that time, George Bush was already sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.” Now is not the time to make generalized statements like “Multiple stories found that Gore likely won Florida”. What studies??

    On November 12, 2001 an article from The Washington Post describes a consortium of newspapers that hired National Opinion Research Center, an organization based at the University of Chicago. “Consortium members, in addition to The (Washington) Post, included the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and four Florida newspapers: the Orlando Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and the St. Petersburg Times”.

    From the the first paragraph of this article by Dan Keating and Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent fro the Washington Post……” In all likelihood, George W. Bush still would have won Florida and the presidency last year if either of two limited recounts — one requested by Al Gore, the other ordered by the Florida Supreme Court — had been completed, according to a study commissioned by The Washington Post and other news organizations.” Here is a link to entire article http://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/11/12/florida-recounts-would-have-favored-bush/964f109e-c871-4050-af25-f7978cc25dfa/?tid=ss_mail

    The Gore team was allowed to seek relief from both the Florida State Supreme Court and The US Supreme Court. At the end of the day, everyone points the finger at FLA as the reason for Gore’s loss. The reality is Vice President Gore lost the election because of his home State of TN where he was a Congressmen and a Senator. He lost TN by 80,229. If he Won his home State of TN, he would have been President Gore and Florida’s electoral votes wouldn’t have mattered. Gore would have had won the Electoral College 277 to Bush’s 260

    President Trump should be allowed to seek the same legal relief. At this point, there are too many questions in too many States in this election to not allow President Trump to investigate. If things were different and Biden

    I live in Georgia and I imagine the candidates will be camped in our front yard until the first Tuesday in a January! On Saturday, I noticed the difference between the Total Votes in the Presidential Race and Purdue Senate Race is +/-44k and Loefflers Senate race is +/- 80k. As important as these Senate races are to Georgia and the Nation these numbers are staggering. General Flynn’s Attorney Sydney Powell stated on Sunday Morning Futures that +/- 425,000 ballots have just Joe Biden’s name marked and no down ballot races were marked.

    The 2020 election is far from over. We need clarity of past events. Thankfully, Florida learned from the mistakes of 2000. Too bad the Networks sat on calling the State for Trump. It will be interesting to see how many loyal viewers will leave Fox for their coverage!

    Sent from my IPad

    1. Andrew Yang has already announced that he and his family are ‘moving to Georgia’ in order to secure a Democratic Senate majority. This is not about the best interests of the people of Georgia, this is about Democrat power. They want POWER and they are going to get it come hell and high water. Sidelining Mitch McConnell and installing Chuck Schumer is their number one focus right now.

      1. LOL, yes it is all about power, that is how our government works. Parties are voted into power, parties are voted out of power. Everyone knows this is how it works, except apparently an Anonymous commenter on this website.

        1. the future is a vanguard party of the workers who corrects the plutocracy sternly with organized force. don’t look to the billionaire-controlled electoral process for deliverance, it will only come by more naked force. organizing for that day is what matters now, in every venue and at every level. arrest, expropriation, and punishment of global billionaire oligarchs is the sine qua non of future freedom. this is the new acid test.

          the question is no longer “socialism” or not. obviously socialism will come because they want it.
          but there is a silver lining because socialism will be usable against THEM
          our fellow American workers are not the enemy, the PLUTOCRATS are the enemies. and their mercenaries. but don’t look to the body, look to the head

          only a matter of time. it may take a few years but it will come. faster, now that it’s clear voting is captive to their ability to game results and lie in the media, so there will be a lot less energy wasted on that once this episode plays out. Now, I say, look to the ultimate political test to resolve all claims: war

          what will be the harbinger? inflation, which will spell doom for the United States, which will be unable to cover its debts…

          sovereign default will mean the fragmentation of the United States. Then all the simmering slow enslavement of American workers and the vast flyover-land between corrupt California and New York, fully controlled by coastal elites, will meet its final test, and it will fail. Then it will finally be cancelled with fire and steel

          Saloth Sar

          1. Kurtz, sorry you’re taking it so hard and you should probably wait until you come down off this bender before posting again. It’s embarrassing.

            1. LOL, I feel great. The temporary confusion created by Trump’s unexpected 2016 win is coming to a close. The delusions of fairness and equality among Trump voters are now evaporating. The false hopes of justice coming from the American political system are dashed. The anger builds, the dark side powers awaken, they will grow until one day it finally eats the billionaires, who are now unmasked as the ones who really control all the critical institutions from A to Z. They wanted Trump gone, and they are soon to get their way.

              There is no way out except through the billionaire class. They are traitors, they want to enslave us all, pacify and grind us down, end American sovereignty except when it’s useful for their temporary plans, and they must be destroyed, by any means necessary. Big tech, big media, and the Federal Reserve system are the true powers, and the system is owned by them and wholly committed to fraud on the people. They are the enemy.


              -Saloth Sar

  4. I agree with JT that everyone should have their day in court, and I do not begrudge Trump contesting his case despite the long odds. I am perfectly content to wait for the results of those court cases. But I would implore Trump supporters not to throw good money after bad by contributing to Trump’s desperate appeal for money to pay for his legal expenses! I would hazard to guess that most of his lawyers are working pro bono because they are steadfast Republicans who believe in Trump’s cause. I’m confident whatever legal invoices they send to Trump will gladly be paid by his billionaire cronies. Don’t waste your hard-earned money. There is no guarantee, after all, that your money will be used to pay for his legal representation.

    Joe Friday remarked earlier that Turley’s employment at Fox was likely due to the fact that he could not secure a job at another network. Who knows. Fox always introduces him as a “contributor” which I presume means he is on its payroll and to disabuse the notion that he is speaking impartially. It would be nice if Turley would explain his contractual obligations as a “contributor” as opposed to being invited onto Fox independently, but I’m sure we will not be given this level of transparency.

    In articles I have read by former students and colleagues, it would seem that Turley likes to bathe in the Klieg lights. Perhaps, Fox’s goto celebrity lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, was/is unavailable (what has happened to his omnipresence?), and Turley was more than happy to pinch hit. Be that as it may, I notice that Trump today tweeted out one of Turley’s statements on the merits of his pending litigation. Of course, the quote was devoid of the more guarded sentences in the overall commentary thereby presenting a misleading impression. I wonder how Turley feels about his opinion being taken out of context and held up to mislead many millions of people? When in a few years time, we watch a Frontline documentary about Trumpism, will Turley look back with pride that his good name was exploited by Trump? Turley seems to have willingly courted this dubious association by appearing frequently on Fox which he knows Trump watches. Would it be surprising if Trump engages his legal representation? And if so, would he not have to shut down this blog until he ceases to be Trump’s advocate, for I presume that Turley is obliged to give his impartial opinion here which he could not do once he steps into the fray.

    1. “But I would implore Trump supporters not to throw good money after bad by contributing to Trump’s desperate appeal for money to pay for his legal expenses!”

      Correct. Trump supporters should contribute to GEORGIA Senate races. We MUST hold the Senate! Priority number one. Losing White House is very bad, but losing the Senate will be a catastrophe.

      If this country does NOT want to endure the disastrous catastrophe of having both PELOSI and SCHUMER in power, then we MUST win in Georgia.

      Georgia MUST be the focus.


    The media calls play no official role in the nation’s transfer of power — it is ultimately up to the states to certify their voting results before the electoral college meets in December. But they have taken on an outsized importance in the process, a fact underscored by the spontaneous celebrations that broke out within minutes of the news alerts, as thousands of people gathered outside the White House, in New York’s Times Square, in downtown Chicago and in other Democratic strongholds across the country. While the outcome had already become increasingly clear, the media’s call for Biden seemed to be the unofficial stamp of approval.

    And it was the media’s role in providing unofficial closure to the race that especially rankled Trump’s backers, who have been claiming, without evidence, that widespread fraud took place. “The media do not get to determine who the president is,” tweeted Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Saturday. “The people do. When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is.”

    TV networks and other major news outlets project election winners by relying on piecemeal vote returns from state officials and statistical analysis of regional and local voting patterns. Each described their reluctance to declare Biden the winner earlier — even as they said it grew likelier by the day — because of insufficient data and the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic in states that were still counting the last few thousand ballots.

    Public curiosity and confusion about this process ran especially high because two news organizations — Fox News and the Associated Press — separately called Arizona for Biden just several hours after the polls closed, while most other news organizations have still deemed the state too close to call. Fox in particular has loudly stood by its call, even while mail-in ballots have narrowed the gap for Trump — a projection that drew the Trump campaign’s wrath and led his supporters to chant “Fox News sucks” as votes were being tabulated in Phoenix on Thursday and Friday.

    But the variation in timing and calls among news outlets doesn’t appear to have been political. Fox and AP drew their voting data from a nonprofit research firm affiliated with the University of Chicago that it hired after the 2016 election, after it broke away from a larger consortium of the other major news organizations, which collectively relied on data from a company called Edison Research. While similar, the two data sets appear to have led to different calls on Arizona.

    The decision meant that both Fox and AP essentially moved 11 more electoral votes into Biden’s column than other news organizations — a projection that put him that much closer to victory. It led to speculation that Fox — a conservative-leaning network with close ties to the Trump White House and watched closely by the president — would be the first network to call the election for Biden, especially if the network made an early call for Nevada, where Biden also led from early on.

    Edited from: “Biden Victory Seemed Clear For More Than A Day. So Why Did The Media Hold Off?”

    The Washington Post 11/7/20

  6. ‘Vigo County, IN and Valencia County, NM had been won by every presidential winner since 1956 and 1952, respectively. Trump won both this year by 10-15%’

  7. How Winners Are Called And Certified

    And Why Trump Has Little Chance Of Overturning Biden’s Victory

    Elections are certified once every vote is counted and all outstanding legal issues are sorted. There is a deadline for this, and it varies by state. Most states must be done by the end of November.

    When they’re done counting, cities and counties report their final results up to the state. The governor or a statewide entity then certifies their electoral votes and the slate of electors who will cast them accordingly, as NPR’s Ron Elving has explained. The electors meet this year on Dec. 14, to formally cast the electoral votes.

    The AP, and other networks, call a winner only when the trailing candidate has no possible path to victory. In other words, decisions desks hold off on a call until they can determine that the candidate behind has no route to catch up, even with the outstanding ballots that are left to count.

    Trump cited potential recounts and ongoing litigation as reason to keep hope alive for his candidacy. It’s true that some states have mandatory recount procedures when the vote is within a certain margin. That will almost certainly happen in Georgia, the secretary of state announced on Friday.

    Article continues after sponsor message

    But Biden hit the 270 he needs without Georgia and without Arizona. The AP and decision desks, in calling the election, determined that the margin in Pennsylvania, for example, is big enough that it’s past the margin that would warrant a recount and the outstanding ballots won’t be enough for the margin to slip back into that territory.

    The Trump campaign says it intends to file a recount request in Wisconsin. Typically, recounts don’t end up swaying the final tally much one way or the other. In 2016, a recount in Wisconsin yielded Trump 131 votes. Biden leads Trump by more than 20,000 votes in Wisconsin.

    As for lawsuits, there is ongoing litigation in Pennsylvania that could put in jeopardy some ballots that were received by Friday, but were postmarked by Election Day. The margin in Pennsylvania looks to be big enough that even if those ballots — estimated to be a few thousand at most — aren’t counted, Biden would still carry the commonwealth.

    Most of the other lawsuits the Trump campaign has lodged have been filed with little to no evidence backing up their claims. Judges have tossed out suits in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania already.

    All that being said, counting continues in many states, in large part due to the deluge of mail ballots cast this year.

    But the timeline of certification will all move along, whether Trump concedes or not.

    Edited from: “Fact Check: Trump’s Claim That Biden’s Wins Aren’t Certified Won’t Change The Outcome”

    NPR, 11/7/20

  8. Republicans have to make sure we keep the Senate. Priority: Donate to the Georgia Senate races right now. We need Loeffler and Perdue in the Senate.

    Losing the White House is bad, but losing the Senate is an utter catastrophe.

    Georgia should be on all our minds….

  9. It’s not really about this election at this point. I voted for Trump (I would hate for my name to be left off “the list” of those to be loaded on cattle cars post-inauguration for having strayed from the leftist echo chamber), but if Biden won fair and square, then so be it. And even if he won by cheating, as it appears, we will submit to the democratic process, but we want to know what happened. My side isn’t going to scream at the sky and burn down cities and hang hashtags off of every other word as if they were Christmas ornaments. But I was sitting at my computer at midnight on election night when they just shut the counting down and I sat there for 12 hours waiting for a single number to move – nothing. Trump was enjoying enormous leads which somehow disappeared into the mists in the days it took them to count the votes, despite the fact that other states, including hugely populous and shutdown Cali, including NY and Florida, managed to get their tallies in on election night. Although looks can be deceiving, it certainly doesn’t look like a clean election, and the voter glitches in Michigan confirm that. I would call that hard evidence. People who have spent the past four years refusing to acknowledge Trump’s presidency and/or fitness for office can surely understand our side’s desire to make sure. And after calling us deplorables, lizard brains, and I don’t know what all, I question why these people want or need our acknowledgment or that of the President. The Dems have consistently refused to work across the aisle and have humiliated themselves with their attitude towards Amy Coney Barrett. This in marked contrast to the confirmation process for RBG who was openly political and who was confirmed by 96-3, not because the Republican were nuts about her nomination but because that’s what grownups do. The Dems catapulted our country back to a Might Makes Right system of government where honor and fair play were not considered. With the final word going to Congress, I have no doubt that Biden will be ratified as our next President. My concern is for the future. If the fraud should prove to be as massive as it appears, what is to stop the Democrats from indulging in it again? It would be better for all concerned to identify areas of potential fraud now and eliminate them.

    1. debolcia is more than likely a regular commenter using another name. It’s that same, over-the-top, phony outrage that we see again and again on these comment threads.

    2. You posted a similar comment on another column, deboluccia, and as I said there –

      What website were you looking at when you say that not a single number moved?

      I looked at sites like https://fivethirtyeight.com/live-blog/2020-election-results-coverage/, and they showed the numbers were moving. You can still scroll back to see their live coverage comments throughout the night.

      The reason that it takes different states different amounts of time to finish counting is that each state has its own laws about counting, and each state has different numbers of mail-in votes to count. FL allows mail-in ballot processing and counting begin before 11/3 and PA does not. See the state by state information here –

      Don’t buy into Trump’s lies about the election being stolen.

      1. Thank you for the support in tabulating the truth. There should be no fear in a audit of votes and electronic tabulation of votes. A properly supervised recount can be done safely with visual monitors. When this is completed it will put to rest any & all allegations that the vote was rigged & do so without adding cost to taxpayers via lawsuits.

      2. Anonymous, Would you trust the computer software used in today’s voting machines be owned by Mitch McConnells wife knowing the company is also ran by Lindsey Grahams chief of staff? I can imagine the answer is a “NO WAY”!!!
        The fact of the matter is Dominion software used in the machines for the electronic vote is ran by Pelosi’s Chief of staff and one of the owner’s of Dominion Software is Feinstein’s husband…so imo there is a clear cut case of impropriety that is factual in nature within this election. A recount is necessary.

  10. It’s only a matter of time before someone says they know for a fact, they seen someone voting with their right sock on the left foot. That lightbulbs were screwed in the wrong way in Republican polling places. That people in large cities are not allowed to vote, sorry that one has been used already, but I digress, the train from Hawaii didn’t get to Pennsylvania on time, some people say it was George Soro’s fault. That Little green men were seen standing in line somewhere near Roswell, New Mexico. Also, Hillary Clinton was seen standing in line in every state in the country. But,….. some of you believed Mexico was going to pay for the wall.

    1. ‘Giving new meaning to lack of self-awareness, Kamala tonight said to their (mail-in) voters: “You have protected the integrity of our democracy.”

      ‘Biden tonite said he couldn’t have done it without Hunter’s “support.” Huh? Hunter was MIA the entire campaign until just now when he made a cameo on the stage following the speech. Apparently Biden was talking about Hunter’s *financial* “support” through his Chinese bagmen.’


      1. Anon: Hunter “made a cameo on the stage following the speech.”

        That photo op was a warning to the FBI: “Back off. I’ll be in charge, soon.”

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