Attorney from President George W. Bush’s 2000 election legal team provides insight on contested elections

Daryl Bristow worked to defend intent and integrity of 25,000 critical mail-in ballots in 2000

HOUSTON – Legal challenges over results in the presidential election and the wait to find out the fate of American leadership is nothing new in American politics.

Twenty years ago, Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore were in a recount battle for over a month. At the time, all eyes were on Florida with the renowned “hanging chads” controversy.

KPRC 2 reached out to Houston Attorney Daryl Bristow, who was on Bush’s team at the time. Bristow is no stranger to hotly contested elections.

In 2000, Bristow found himself working on a case centering around tens of thousands of mail-in ballots in Martin and Seminole Counties in Florida. The question was about whether those Republican ballots should count.

“Voter registration numbers had been either omitted on the ballot request forms or they had been mistyped so the numbers were wrong. Some reps of the Republican party went in to correct that. And it was that irregularity that had the Democrats want to challenge 25,000 ballots. Had we lost those two cases, we would have lost the election,” Bristow said.

Bristow worked to defend the values and integrity of the American elections process, emphasizing the importance of voter intent and empowerment. Bristow and Bush’s legal team worked through the night on several legal battles.

“Carried those cases through to the Florida Supreme Court and Bush V. Gore [went] to the Supreme Court of the US. So you can imagine what kind of an organization was thrown together so quickly, pulling people together on a team to operate at a level of intensity that frankly left room for very little sleep,” Bristow laughed.

Ultimately, in the Martin County and Seminole County cases, Bristow’s interpretation of law and values prevailed with the Florida Supreme Court affirming the decision.

“We won those cases in the trial court and the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the proposition that minor irregularities in connection with requesting those ballots should not thwart the intent of the voter and the vote should count,” Bristow said. “We were defending the integrity of the ballot. We were defending the rules."

It was a critical move against disenfranchising voters, which he said should be considered in today’s politics.

Bristow said the system does not allow for any major and egregious fraud, while minor inaccuracies are inevitable and create negligible differences.

In 2020, he said he has yet to see substantial evidence to support fraud claims.

“Without a serious material indication of fraud or corruption, the voter intent should control and the politicians should stand back and let the system work,” Bristow said.

Bristow said the American elections system is tried and true. He just hopes whoever wins the 2020 election will restore faith in the process that Americans worked hard to put in place.

“Will find a way to heal the conspiracy theories and the speculations that have no basis and give some comfort to the American people that the process they have works,” Bristow said.