ATLANTA — As the country heads into Election Day, experts are warning that it could be days before there’s a winner of the presidency.
Election officials will need time to count the massive number of mail-in ballots, and legal battles could be on the horizon.
Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to political experts and local voters who said the nation’s been down this road before: The 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush.
Channel 2 Action News will have live streaming election coverage starting at 7 p.m. as results come in. Download the WSB Now app on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV to watch LIVE.
“It was a range of emotions, from feeling very, very anxious about it. You know it was a close race,” said Cobb County voter Amy DeFaveri.
It was a tight race that appeared to be over early on election night.
“I think it was around 8 p.m., and Gore was projected to win,” she said. “You woke up the next morning, and George W. had won Florida, and then five weeks later …”
After a month of recounts, court orders and hanging chads, the U.S. Supreme Court halted Florida’s recount, making Bush the winner of the presidency.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Election 2020]
Gore gave his concession speech 36 days after Election Day.
“While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome,” he said.
DeFaveri said as a voter, the whole experience was a gut punch.
“Mixed emotions. And, I think, ultimately, you know, feeling very disappointed that our government couldn’t get it right,” she said.
Political experts said the mixed emotions and frustrations will likely return in 2020.
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According to Dr. Kerwin Swint, a professor of politics at Kennesaw State University, the 2000 election will likely pale in comparison to this year’s presidential race.
“The election in 2000 was hung up over this disputed vote in Florida,” he said. “This year, we could have ten Floridas, potentially.”
Swint explained that with record-breaking voter turnout and a massive uptick in mail-in ballots, the country is headed into uncharted territory.
“Because of that extended window, we’re practically guaranteed to have not Election Day, but election week or, heaven forbid, maybe even election month if it drags on,” he said.
Swint added that legal challenges involving how and when mail-in ballots must be postmarked are almost guaranteed.
“We’re going to see that in Georgia. We’re definitely going to see it in some of the big, crucial states like Pennsylvania and Michigan,” he said.
The framers of the Constitution created election deadlines. The Electoral College votes in mid-December, and there is an automatic transfer of power if there’s no declared winner in January.
“If there’s no official president by the time of the inauguration, then the Constitution says the Speaker of the House becomes the acting president,” said Swint. “You know, which would be Nancy Pelosi.”
Whether the election is messy, a landslide or without incident, one way or another, the United States will have a president in 2021.
DeFaveri said that because everyone has a stake in this election, it’s vital that all vote.
“It’s part of being an American citizen and a good steward,” she said.