SU Law Professors Ponder What Legal Action Might Arise From Presidential Election Results

Nov 4, 2020

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
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Syracuse University law professors are considering what legal issues might arise in the aftermath of Tuesday’s presidential election results and the ongoing ballot count.  The tighter outcome almost guarantees litigation from either side, which is distressing to associate professor Jenny Breen.


"There is a sense thta the massive influx of lawyers into an election process is often a sign that something is broken or that something is not ideal.  It always makes me kind of depressed when there's a lot of litigation."

Breen says there are other important roles for lawyers to play, such as volunteering to be a poll watcher, poll worker, or to advocate for voter access. 

Associate Law Professor Jenny Breen during the Zoom conference.
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Meanwhile, Professor Kristen Barnes cringes at the notion that the results might go before the US Supreme Court, a threat President Trump has made for weeks.  She says nine unelected justices shouldn’t have to interfere.

"There's a lot of concern if the court steps in in some way to decide who will be president of the United States.  In those moments, that's when people question 'does  my vote even matter'."

Another observer sees some positive takeaways from the election.  Associate Professor Mark Nevitt says it appears this was the highest turnout rate in a presidential election since 1900.  And, there were very few instances of domestic or international interference.  

Professor Kristen Barnes.
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"It's critically important for the integrity of the election system that it's a good, fair, open, transparent system.  The concern was there was going to be some sort of massive election hack or breach or something along those lines, and the answer appears to be no."

He says the level of foreign targeting is lower than the 2018 mid-terms.  Barnes and the other professors implored everyone to remain calm and let the votes get counted.

"Hopefully, whoever emerges as the winner that we get the message of 'we are a democracy and we have a rule of law.'  We've had this election and there will be respect for the results of that democratic process."

Professor Mark Nevitt.
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More than 100 people joined the law professors Wednesday for the discussion held via Zoom.