Democrats Prepare for Battle Beyond Election Day

As the late-summer turned to fall, Democratic groups were planning for all eventualities, including a contested election—and that was before President Donald Trump chilled his opposition across the country by refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Now they're digging in, aware that the president's actions on Election Day and beyond are unpredictable.

Trump stunned the White House briefing room, if not the entire country, with one statement on Wednesday.

"There won't be a transfer, frankly," he said. "There will be a continuation."

His comments drew immediate rebukes from Democrats across the country.

"We cannot and will not let Donald Trump go unchecked as he continues to threaten our democracy," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, co-Chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), in a joint statement. "Democratic AGs know how to take Trump to court and win. We are more than prepared to do so again."

DAGA told Newsweek it is working with the Democratic Party to prepare for possible eventualities after the election.

As Trump sows doubt and fear, the Biden campaign wants to instill confidence in the once-hallowed voting process. But its legal team knows what can happen on Election Day, citing the controversial George W. Bush win over Al Gore in Florida in 2000.

Juan Carlos Planas was part of the Republican legal team from 2004 to 2014, including for the John McCain and Mitt Romney campaigns. But once he offered his services, the Biden campaign immediately snatched him up as a poll watcher and lawyer available to intervene and file an amicus brief if he catches something amiss in Miami-Dade County.

He told Newsweek he expected Trump's lawyers to try to challenge voters and cause confusion, something the Biden campaign is "getting ready for."

"With McCain we never challenged voters in Miami-Dade, we did it judiciously," Planas said. "With Romney, Boston said you can not challenge a voter without express consent from the campaign. But I do not expect the Trump team to act in the prudent or judicious manner that McCain or Romney did."

While Trump demures regarding the peaceful transition of power, his administration officials are preparing for it, Politico reported, with the White House confirming it is aware of the work which has been going on for months.

"The Trump Administration has met and will continue to meet all requirements under the law as it relates to any needed transition between administrations," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere.

But Planas also believes Democrats will be able to avoid the worst of Trump's damage by simply winning Florida on Election Day. He explained that 90 percent of vote by mail ballots will be counted by 7:30 p.m. ET, with the latest returns being those coming from drop boxes, which would be by midnight or 1 am ET.

From a legal point of view, "whatever is being reported at 1 a.m. in Florida, unless it's very, very close, it's going to be hard to overturn that," Planas said.

But winning Florida is critical for Trump, he said.

"There are scenarios for Biden to win the presidency without Florida," Planas said, "but there is no scenario that Trump can win the presidency without winning Florida."

Hector Sanchez Barba, executive director of national grassroots organization Mi Familia Vota, which is active in swing states, said that beyond legal means, there are ways to activate and mobilize communities like Latinos and immigrants in the case of a contested election, or if Trump refuses to step aside after a loss to Biden.

"Organizing as a community is nothing new for us," Sanchez Barba told Newsweek. "We mobilized for immigration rallies that have been some of the biggest in the history of the nation, and we're ready to mobilize to defend our democracy with peaceful demonstrations."

But he is prepared to fight beyond Election Day.

"Counting ballots is going to take longer this year," Sanchez Barba said, "and we don't want any manipulation from Trump."

trump contested election
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 24: President Donald Trump speaks during his rally at Cecil Airport on September 24, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. President Trump continues to campaign against Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden. Joe Raedle/Getty